Perry Thomas Cupps
Professor of Animal Science
1916 – 2009
Perry Cupps was born June 18, 1916, on a small family farm in Newton County, Missouri. After high school, Perry stayed on at the farm to help the family. But he really wanted to go to college – the first in his family to do so. He got a B.S. degree at the University of Missouri, Columbia and a Ph.D. in animal breeding at Cornell University in 1943.
He enlisted in the Navy, was commissioned as an ensign and sent to Pensacola, Florida where he was trained in the Medical Service Corps. Later he was sent to Seattle, Washington where he trained aviators in the use of oxygen equipment and how to cope with night vision. On June 3, 1944, Perry married Rayanne DeChenne. He was released from active duty as a lieutenant in 1946.
Dr. Cupps’ first academic position was at Michigan State. He left when there was no housing available for his family. He then returned to Seattle where he briefly worked as a researcher for the Centennial Flouring Mill Company. A fire at the plant created an opportunity to return to an educational environment. The Cupps family arrived in Davis on April 1, 1947, when Perry took up a position in the Animal Husbandry Department at UC Davis. (There were 900 students enrolled at that time.) Perry conducted research on the physiology of reproduction in an inbred Jersey cattle herd that had been brought to California from New Jersey. His research was aimed at determining why young calves were dying and using histology to show deficiencies in adrenals and testes of bulls.
In the early 1970s, Perry was sent to Cambridge, England to learn how to perform surgical embryo transfer in cattle as part of a program to allow older faculty to learn new techniques. When he returned to Davis, he ordered the necessary equipment and started one of the first embryo transfer research programs in the U.S. He was a key player in the program as it progressed from surgery in cattle and later sheep, goats, and pigs and eventually to non-surgical techniques. For many years Perry took semen samples from all the bulls at a big sale in Fall River Mills determining their fertility or lack of same.
Besides teaching the popular ‘Physiology of Reproduction’ class, Perry co-edited, with Harold Cole, Reproduction in Domestic Animals through 4 editions. He was an advisor to undergraduate students; the year he retired, his students gave him a silver plaque engraved “scholar, teacher, friend with love, from your students 1982”.
Perry received the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association recognition for outstanding service in 1975 and the Distinguished Service Award of the Western Section of the American Society of Animal Science in 1978. For several years he was section editor for the Journal of Animal Science. He was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho and Sigma Xi. Throughout his academic career, Dr. Cupps was a mentor to many successful Masters and Ph.D. students.
In 1995 Perry and Rayanne moved to Missouri to be near family and friends. He died December 3, 2009, of complications with Parkinson’s disease.