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Lee E. Sommers

photo of Lee Sommers

Degrees Awarded

  • B.S. Wisconsin State Univ. – Platteville, 1966
  • M.S. University of Wisconsin, 1969
  • Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, 1971
  • Years at CSU – 1985-2013


Awards and Recognition

  • Fellow, Soil Science Society of America, 1985
  • Fellow, American Society of Agronomy, 1986
  • Environmental Quality Research Award, American Society of Agronomy, 1987
  • President, Soil Science Society of America, 1998
  • Agronomic Science Foundation Board of Directors, 1996-1999; 2007-2011
  • Member, U.S. National Committee for Soil Science, National Research Council, National Academy of Science, 1996-1999
  • Co-chair, Organizing Committee for 18th World Congress of Soil Science, Philadelphia, 2006
  • Chair, Search Committee for Executive Vice President, ASA-CSSA-SSSA, 2002
  • President, American Society of Agronomy, 2005
  • Agronomic Service Award, American Society of Agronomy, 2010
  • Soil Science Professional Service Award, Soil Science Society of America, 2010
  • Distinguished Extension Award, Colorado State University Alumni Association, 2015
  • Soil Science Distinguished Service Award, Soil Science Society of America, 2015
  • Chair, Experiment Station Section, Assoc. Public & Land Grant Univ., 2012
  • Inductee, Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame, 2018

Lee Sommers grew up on a southern Wisconsin dairy/mixed crop farm.  After receiving his B.S. degree, he studied under Dr. R. F. Harris in Soil Science at the University of Wisconsin for his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees.  Lee accepted a position in the Agronomy Department at Purdue in 1970. At Purdue he taught soil microbiology, soil chemistry, and soil, air, and water contamination. His research program addressed the role of soils and lake sediments in lake eutrophication, recycling industrial wastes and municipal sewage sludges on cropland, and transformations of inorganic and organic compounds in soils and lake sediments.  He is a worldwide authority on the beneficial use of biosolids in agriculture.  Lee’s early research was foundational in setting the US-EPA standards regarding permissible levels of heavy metals in biolsolids for application to agricultural land.  In 2017, 30+ years after he left bench science for administration, scientists and technologists are still reading, quoting, and relying on his papers.


Lee became Head of the Agronomy Department at CSU in 1985 and served in that role until 1996, when he became Director of the CSU Agric. Expt. Sta. He served in that role until his retirement in 2013.


Dr. Sommer’s career contributions represent a unique mix of superior intellectual attainment, uncommon service to clientele, and superior leadership skills.  He excelled as an educator, a research scientist, and an administrator.  As an educator, he actively promoted the use of the latest technology and approaches in teaching and outreach programs at CSU.  He also has promoted the development of resident and distance learning approaches in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University.  As a research scientist, he published papers on the environmentally sound application of biosolids to agricultural soils; his peers regard these papers as classic in nature. As an administrator, Dr. Sommers excelled as a Department Head, Agricultural Experiment Station Director, and in two assignments as interim Dean.  Professors and staff who worked under his direction regarded Lee as a forward looking leader, who welcomed their input, and a man they trusted to do the right thing in difficult situations.

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