Dr. Robert (Bob) B. Church is a pioneer of molecular genetics and embryo transfer technology in cattle. During his 25-year career at the University of Calgary, he became an internationally known leader and expert in transferring the technologies of genetics, reproductive physiology and molecular biology to the agricultural and biotechnology industries.
Dr. Church was a founding member of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary and Associate Dean of Research from 1981 to 1988. He was the first head of the department of Medical Biochemistry, a position he held for fourteen years. The department established an endowed lectureship in biotechnology to honour Professor Church. This lectureship will enable the university to promote technology transfer and bioengineering.
Serving in a scientific advisory capacity to numerous biotechnology projects, he has been personally involved in the establishment of eleven new high technology companies in Alberta, the United States, New Zealand and Australia. Dr. Church is a former director of Calgary-based Alberta Livestock Transplants and Alta Genetics Inc.; Connaught Laboratories Ltd. of Willowdale, Ontario; Veterinary Infectious Disease Organization, Saskatoon; and current Director of Biostar Inc., Saskatoon; Continental Pharma Cryosan Ltd., Montreal; CIBA Canada and Vencap Equities Ltd., Edmonton.
In 1967, he founded Church Livestock Consultants, which specializes in technical advice and program design in animal breeding, embryo transfer, livestock management and the development of food products worldwide.
Dr. Church has been active in the livestock industry through involvement on various committees in the development of breed organizations, sire and dam evaluation, genetic defect testing and breed development.
While a director of Highfield Stock Farms, he assisted in the development of one of the world’s outstanding Simmental and Charolais herds and the establishment of showplace facilities at Aldersyde, Alberta.
In 1974 Dr. Church began operating the Lochend Luing Ranches, northwest of Airdrie. The Lochend Luing Ranch operation is an example of “back to the future” range management in operation. His operation initiated the first verified production protocol for producing, processing, quality control and marketing of a retail-ready product, branded “natural choice”. This resulted in his appointment to the Board of Directors of Canada’s newly established Agri-Food Competitiveness Council, helping Canada remain competitive in the global marketplace.
In addition to his contributions as a scientist and administrator, Dr. Church has authored over 100 scientific publications in animal genetics and biotechnology. He is also an acclaimed teacher and lecturer, and has been cited for excellence in teaching biology to undergraduate university students. Dr. Church has been an inspiring teacher and supervisor of 17 graduate students and eight postdoctoral fellows. Professor Church was honoured as the Klinck Lecturer of the Agricultural Institute of Canada in 1989.
Dr. Church’s contributions to the community are also noteworthy and include 20 years with the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede as director. He was a founding member of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, a board member for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Centre, and director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research for nearly ten years. He served as a member of the Alberta Research Council, the Medical Research Council of Canada and trustee of the Western Heritage Centre. Dr. Church was appointed as vice-chairman of the Premier’s Council on Science and Technology and as a member of the National Advisory Board of the Banff Centre of Management. A recipient of many awards and honours, Dr. Church was inducted in the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1991 for his work in the area of cattle genetics. In 1992, he received the Outstanding Contribution to Alberta Science and Technology Community Award from the ASTech Foundation.
A third-generation Albertan, his grandparents homesteaded in the Yankee Valley and Nose Creek districts. Raised on the family farm and ranch at Balzac, Alberta, Dr. Church continues to help his brother Gordon during the busy seeding and harvest seasons.
Described as an outstanding scientist, administrator, teacher and friend, Dr. Robert Church has been credited with bringing modern-day science to the Canadian agricultural community
Dr. Church was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1993
This biography has been excerpted from the program of that induction ceremony
Executive Director, The Alberta Order of Excellence