Obituary | Lavon J. Sumption

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Obituary | Lavon J. Sumption

Color portrait of Lavon J. Sumption on black background
Lavon J. Sumption served as district director for the West Central Research, Extension and Education Center from 1981 to 2003.

Lavon J. Sumption, a former University of Nebraska researcher and former district director of the West-Central Research, Extension and Education Center, died Sept. 22 at age 93.

Sumption was born in Groton, South Dakota, to Elna Niva and Erwin (Ole) Sumption. The family moved to northern Minnesota, where Lavon began his education. He attended high school at the University of Minnesota’s North Central School of Agriculture and went on to the University of Minnesota, where he completed his education through his doctoral degree in animal genetics.

Upon graduation, Sumption joined the University of Nebraska as a researcher, selecting for fertility in the Nebraska “gene pool’ of swine. He later joined a partnership of Koch, Gregory and Swige, conducting innovative research in beef cattle genetic selection and crossbreeding. He then worked for the Canada Department of Agriculture in Lethbridge, Alberta, supporting their cattle genetics program. Throughout the 1970s, he provided consultant services to cattle breeders in the United States and Canada, including the selection and importation of breeding stock from Europe.

Sumption returned to Nebraska U in 1981 as district director of the West Central Research, Extension and Education Center in North Platte. He retired from the university in 2003.

Following his retirement, he served as a golf ranger in Arizona, then began teaching biology at Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, Arizona, and again at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio.

Recognized as a creative teacher, Sumption initiated bold, long-term research projects; cheered on successors who completed studies; and encouraged students, friends and peers to move beyond their comfort zone and pursue every opportunity in sight.

Sumption was a member of Sigma Xi, Alpha Zeta, Gamma Sigma Delta, Farmhouse Fraternity and Torch Club; a former National Foundation Fellow; and recipient of the Commonwealth Foundation (London) Lectureship and Research Survey for East and West Africa. He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and served on church and library boards. An avid golfer, he played 850 courses, in every state and nine countries, retiring to golf spectator and storyteller.

Sumption is survived by his wife, Peggy; brother, John (Lisa); sons, John, Joseph Rayford and Joshua (Joanna) Rayford; daughters, Elizabeth (Rodel) Broas, Robin (Wayne) Campbell, Christine (Richard) White and Gloria; grandchildren, Amanda, Kate, Kelli, Morgan, Kaleb, Milo and Olivia; and great-granddaughters, Hanna and Olivia. He was preceded in death by his parents.

A celebration of life is 3 p.m. Oct. 22 at Holmes Golf Course, 3701 S. 70th St. in Lincoln. Ashes will be inurned at the South Savo Cemetery, Frederick, South Dakota. Memorials are suggested to the Food Bank of Lincoln or the University of Nebraska Foundation’s Gudmundsen Sandhills Ag Lab Endowed Fund.

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