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MU Extension Business Development Program Turns 50

The "crown jewel" of Extension celebreates 50 years

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Original story:

It all started with Sputnik.

A replica of Sputnik 1, on display in the National Air and Space Museum.

Sputnik — the word means “satellite” in Russian — was launched into orbit in October 1957 by the USSR, profoundly shocking America. The beach ball-sized sphere was visible to the naked eye, and its radio signal could be picked up across the U.S. How could the Soviets have leaped so far ahead? Maybe the U.S. was destined, in Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s words, to be buried.

The resulting panic and the need to catch up in the late 50s and 60s led to a boom in the sciences, education and even the arts. We did more than that, of course, landing on the moon in 1969 and effectively burying the USSR just 21 years later.

Among these efforts was U.S. Code Title 15, Chapter 37, § 1351, 1965, better known as the State Technical Services Act of 1965, which read in part:

“Congress finds that wider diffusion and more effective application of science and technology in business, commerce and industry are essential to the growth of the economy, to higher levels of employment and to the competitive position of United States products in world markets. The Congress also finds that the benefits of federally financed research, as well as other research, must be placed more effectively in the hands of American business, commerce and industrial establishments.”

The law goes on to say that cooperation among universities, communities and industries might be the best way to provide “technical services designed to encourage a more effective application of science and technology to both new and established business, commerce and industrial establishments.”

That was the genesis of the University of Missouri Extension Business, Industry and Labor Extension Program, known today as the Business Development Program (BDP), founded in 1966.

Dr. John Sutherland, an MU professor of chemical engineering with extensive private sector experience including as a Texaco refinery engineer and founder and president of Sutherland-Becker Laboratories, was named its first director. MU and Extension had high hopes for the program from the start.