By Brian Wesley and Kristen Bowman
Gregory N. Whitis, Auburn alumnus and retired fisheries extension specialist, has printed the second and final edition of the late E.W. Shell’s “The Evolution of the Auburn University Fisheries Program.”
The 800-page book includes over 100 pictures. It entails the 90-year history of Auburn University’s program in fisheries leading to the establishment of the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. Whitis, whose extensive contributions to the project draw from his 40 years of experience in the catfish industry, served as the principal proofreader, editor and ultimately publisher of the book. He also wrote the section about the Alabama Fish Farming Center. June Burns, a longtime staff member of the school, formatted the final version.
The book was originally stored in Auburn’s digital library, but thanks to Whitis’ efforts, Shell’s extensive work is now published as a hardbound edition.
“This is a labor of love for me,” Whitis said. “I knew Dr. Shell my entire career. It took us about three years to get the book into this form, and sadly to say, he died before I could get this hardbound version to him. This book is a very fitting memory of his legacy and career here at Auburn.”
Eddie Wayne Shell grew up in Butler County, Alabama, before attending Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1948. After earning his Ph.D. in fisheries biology from Cornell University in 1959, Shell returned to Auburn to begin what would become his 35-year academic career. Shell retired in 1994, serving 21 years as the head of the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures as well as the director of the International Center for Agriculture. Shell passed away in Auburn on May 14, 2021. The second edition of the book includes an obituary for Shell written by retired Auburn faculty members David Rouse and John Jensen.
“Dr. Shell was instrumental in directing vital research for the catfish industry at Auburn University,” Whitis said. “He was one of the longest-serving members of the fisheries program. If not for his pioneering insight of how research was conducted in the early days of commercial catfish production, our industry would never have gotten the foundation that it did. There are almost countless numbers of Auburn graduates in the catfish industry. The University has played a big role in launching U.S Farm Raised Catfish.”
Joe Tomasso, director of the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, credits Whitis for doing justice to the hard work of Shell.
“Greg has done a great service for the Auburn fisheries community by taking Wayne Shell’s wonderful history from an online story to a hard copy that a lot of people will keep and treasure,” Tomasso said. “Wayne Shell captured the essence of the program at Auburn from its very beginnings to modern day.”
“The Evolution of the Auburn University’s Fishing Program” can be purchased on Whitis’s website for $99.98, which includes shipping and taxes for Alabama residents. Proceeds from each book will be donated to in the E.W. Shell Aquaculture Scholarship Fund at the Auburn University Federal Credit Union.