Both a thousand miles from home, Marc Linit and his wife, Sue, show traces of their New York roots in their Columbia kitchen. While the meals have changed over time, “the culture of cooking and getting family together around a table has remained constant,” Linit said. The pair met in the Mizzou Rec Center and bonded when they realized they grew up just 12 miles from one another in the Empire State, somewhat of a rarity in Mid-Missouri. So much so, that Linit often jokes in agricultural conferences that he is from a “Dutch farming community in the East,” frequently finding himself alone in not conforming to the Midwestern build.
So just how did a young man from Brooklyn become the interim dean of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources? Well, it all started with a tree.
Out of Linit’s second-story, childhood apartment window in Flatbush, Brooklyn, sat a maple tree. Providing a literal breath of fresh air in a densely populated area, Linit would watch the tree’s leaves dance in the wind, changing colors in the autumn and budding in the spring. In the summers, he and his parents and his older sister, Roni, spent their time in upstate New York in the Catskill Mountains. Linit welcomed the opportunity to get out of the city and explore.
The appreciation he gathered for nature led him to pursue his master’s in Forestry at the University of Maine. After that, his love for the woods drew him to an unexpected job — studying the southern pine beetle at the University of Arkansas. His work as a research tech there quickly became the foundation of his Ph.D. work, opening the door for teaching.
“If you would have told me that I could teach courses in insect ecology and continue my research, that would be exactly what I wanted to do,” Linit said. He applied for an open spot in forest entomology at the University of Missouri in 1980, getting the job. He quickly moved up the ranks over the years.
Starting as an associate professor, Linit now serves as interim dean of the college. Although he had to relinquish his role as a professor, which he truly loved, the position does not come without its perks.
“I care deeply about the college and look forward to helping the next administration get their feet on the ground,” Linit said. After he helps the new leadership adjust though, Linit will retire. When he finally has some free time, Linit hopes to travel frequently, volunteer and catch up on his reading, because the reading he does now, “is mostly emails, and not the good stuff,” Linit said.
Still, these days, Linit resides in his eighth or ninth office in the Agriculture Building, performing all the tasks that his former friend and colleague, Dean Thomas Payne, used to do. It’s a job he never sought, but still performs with pride. Linit’s mother, who passed away earlier this year, was thrilled upon hearing of his promotion.
“It was a very sweet moment, being able to tell her before she died,” Linit said.