Innovator in His Field, Supporter of His Alma Mater

Dr. Bill Hildebolt

Using money from selling his 4-H steers, Dr. Bill Hildebolt paid for his first two undergraduate years at The Ohio State University.

“It would take a whole herd of cattle in order to pay for college now,” said Hildebolt, an alum and friend of the Ohio State College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

A teaching assistant position paid $125 per month, but also covered his senior-year tuition and all of graduate school, he recalls. His wife, Sandi, was working as well.

A scholarship from the Ohio Canners Association provided the junior-year tuition. Hildebolt graduated debt-free.

Remembering that assistance has motivated many college gifts, including those that established The Hazen and Anna Jane Hildebolt Preble County Scholarship (Fund #603185), The William and Sandra Hildebolt Food Science and Technology Hall of Distinction Endowment Fund (#643184) and Show Me the Data! (#315252), which benefits the CFAES student-run speaker series called Citation Needed.

Hildebolt is saddened to see today's students racking up debt, he said. “I really do believe in payback or pay forward. Anyone who had the privilege to go to The Ohio State University should pay back there.”

Hildebolt was the oldest of three children growing up in Preble County, Ohio, on the family farm -- a farm that has been in continuous operation for 200 years, growing corn, soybeans and wheat, and raising fat cattle, he said.

He entered college majoring in pre-dentistry, but decided to switch when he realized he didn’t want to be a dentist. A fraternity brother who was majoring in horticulture suggested he talk with Dr. Wilbur A. Gould, who pioneered processing and quality of Ohio’s main horticultural products and later served as acting director of the Food Industries Center.

“Doctor Gould convinced me that food technology was the career of the future. I grew up on the farm and really liked the aspects of food production,” he said. “I would do it all over again. Food science now is a great career, and even better, the things going on there are really amazing.”

After earning his BS specializing in food technology and his MS and PhD in horticulture, Hildebolt began an illustrious career. Working for the Campbell Soup Company, he rose to vice president of research and development. He was credited with roughly 20 patents and led the development of Prego spaghetti sauce. He also spent six years as vice president of research and development for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

Now making his home in Winston-Salem, N.C., Hildebolt is founder and owner of Nature’s Select Premium Turf Services, Inc., a biologically-based lawn-care business. The techniques are based on agricultural practices gleaned from his experience on the family farm and composting research at Ohio State with advice from Dr. Harry Hoytink, a retired plant pathology professor, Hildebolt said.

“We were one of the pioneers in that area 20 years ago. Now people are finally realizing the full potential of biology-based programs,” he said.

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