Bringing our history alive

Remembering our colleagues who have passed: 1979-present

In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

Abraham Lincoln

Jeffrey Drew Smith (1922-2003)

Photograph of Jeffrey Drew Smith
Jeffrey Drew Smith (1922-2003)

Jeffrey Drew Smith, better known as Drew, was an international authority on turfgrass diseases. Born in England, he served in North Africa and Italy during WWII. He went on to complete his BS at Kings College, University of Newcastle in 1946 and his MS at Aberdeen, Scotland in 1959.

Drew worked the majority of his career at the Agriculture Canada Research Station in Saskatoon. He also worked in Yorkshire, Aberdeen, Scotland, in New Zealand, Oregon, Norway, England, and Kenya, which provided him with new ideas, contacts, and sources of inspiration.

Drew published hundreds of research papers, technical bulletins, and extension articles, and the book Fungal Diseases of Amenity Turf Grasses, 3rd edition., which provided detailed information on the identification, biology, and management of fungal pathogens of turfgrasses. The Canadian Phytopathological Society recognized the value of this book by awarding him the Dr. and Mrs D.L. Bailey Award in 1990.

In addition to his research, Drew taught several courses on turfgrasses and diseases in the Horticulture Department at the University of Saskatchewan.

Drew was ordained as a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada in 1976 and served his church and community in a wide variety of roles throughout the years. He was an avid gardener, traveller, photographer, painter, and writer.

“Drew was a world traveller. He once gave an invited talk to the Plant Pathology Society of Alberta in the mid-1980s entitled “Peregrinations of a Peripatetic Plant Pathologist” where he provided highlights of his career in turfgrass pathology. The presentation was interesting, thoughtful and insightful. The part on snow moulds of turfgrasses was inspirational to me as a newly minted plant pathologist who ended up spending his entire career studying snow moulds.”
-Denis Gaudet

Arthur (Art) J. Skolko (1912-1989)

Photograph of Arthur (Art) J. Skolko
Arthur (Art) J. Skolko (1912-1989)

Arthur (Art) John Skolko was born in Toronto, the son of a Polish-Russian tailor. He attended the University of Toronto for all his post-secondary education: a BS in Forestry in 1935, an MA in 1939, and a PhD under the supervision of Herbert Jackson in 1943. His thesis research for his doctorate was titled A cultural and cytological investigation of a two-spored Basidiomycete, Aleurodiscus canadensi, n. sp.

Art’s major contribution to the advancement of plant pathology in Canada was predominantly administrative. Dr. Craigie, Chief of the Division of Botany and Plant Pathology, assigned to Art the responsibility for forest disease research in the Maritime Provinces and in the spring of 1946, he set up his research laboratory within the Department of Biology of the University of New Brunswick.

Soon after, he was transferred to Ottawa and in October 1948, Art was made Head of the Seed-borne Disease Section of the Division of Botany and Plant Pathology. He established an extensive program of seed testing and surveys of disease and insect pests to establish losses thereby enabling Canada to establish future research needs and priorities in Canadian agriculture and forestry.

During his time as Research Coordinator and Chairman of the Canada Department of Agriculture Extra-mural Committee, he initiated a program to match the education of students in plant pathology with the number of projected positions required in the future. He played a significant role in the reorganization of the Research Branch and in the expansion of programs and staff after the WWII.

Art served as President of the Canadian Phytopathological Society from 1957 to 1958.

“Back in the early 1990s shortly after Art Skolko’s passing, I was approached by Lloyd Seaman, a colleague of Art’s, to deal with filing cabinets filled with government and CPS documents collected during Art’s long career. We decided that these documents were historically valuable because of Art’s key positions in shepherding growth of Canadian research and of the Canadian Phytopathological Society. We approached Archives Canada and eventually established an extensive holding of historical documents covering a good portion of the history of plant pathology in Canada. This holding continues to receive contributions today. This key event also was foundational to developing my interest in the history of plant pathology in Canada.”
-Denis Gaudet

Gordon J. Green (1920-1982)

Photograph of Gordon J. Green
Gordon J. Green (1920-1982)

Gordon J. Green was born in Winnipeg and after graduation from Kelvin High School in 1937, he was employed by Manitoba Pool Elevators until 1941. He then served with the Royal Canadian Air Force until the end of the war in 1945. He went on to obtain a BS in Agriculture at the University of Manitoba in 1949 and a PhD in plant pathology with Dr. J.G. Dickson at the University of Wisconsin in 1953.

Gordon joined the Research Branch of Agriculture Canada in Winnipeg as a research scientist associated with Dr. Thorvaldur Johnson, specializing in cereal rusts. His research was directed to the breeding of stem rust resistant wheat cultivars in Canada that have protected the Canadian crop from stem rust losses for over 25 years. Additionally, Gordon also influenced research and scientific thinking about cereal rusts throughout the world and made important contributions to our understanding of the inheritance of virulence in Puccinia graminis. He was also instrumental in developing a flexible system of nomenclature for the cereal rusts that is now widely used in North American and abroad. He authored or coauthored more than 130 scientific and technical papers.

Gordon served with the Canadian International Development Agency in Kenya, Tanzania, and Brazil and spent one year as a visiting scientist with CSIRO in Sydney, Australia. He also served as honorary professor at the University of Manitoba and supervised Ph.D. students. There was nowhere he enjoyed more than his laboratory.

His outstanding contributions to science were recognized when he was awarded the Public Service of Canada Merit Award in 1976.

Gordon served as president of the CPS from 1980 to 1981. Additionally, the CPS initially named its Outstanding Young Scientist Award the Gordon Green Outstanding Young Scientist Award in his honour.

He enjoyed weekends at the cottage, skiing and bird hunting.

Gordon Albert Nelson (1925-2005)

Photograph of Gordon Albert Nelson
Gordon Albert Nelson (1925-2005)

Gordon Nelson was born in Bentley, Alberta in 1925. He completed his BS and MS in dairy science at the University of Alberta in 1949 and 1951, respectively, and subsequently accepted a position in the Plant Science Department. Under the mentorships of A.W. Henry and G.B. Stanford, then Director of the Agriculture Canada Plant Pathology Laboratory in Edmonton, Gordon pursued a PhD in Plant Pathology at the University of South Dakota under the direction of Dr. George Semenuik (a former student of A. W. Henry) on bacterial wilt of alfalfa.

After graduating in 1961, he worked for Agriculture Canada in St. John’s, Newfoundland from 1961 to 1966 as a potato pathologist and served as a sessional lecturer at the Memorial University from 1963 to 1965. In 1966, Gordon transferred to the Lethbridge Research Station where he served as the potato pathologist until his retirement in 1989.

Demonstrating the seed-borne nature of the potato ring rot pathogen, its latency in tubers and persistence on surfaces of storage areas, soil, and plant debris, were among Gordon’s most notable contributions and essential to potato seed production and certification systems now used worldwide. He showed that apical-tip culture could be used to free plants of the bacterial ring rot pathogen breeding programs.

Gordon loved the outdoors and volunteered with the Mountain Bluebird Society and worked to promote bluebird populations on the western slopes of the Rockies. He was involved in his church and with the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows service organization.

“I worked alongside Gordon for several years before his retirement and knew him well into his retirement. He was a very serious individual and often presented a stern exterior but people who knew him recognised his good-hearted nature. He was meticulous in his research which enabled him to make the important scientific discoveries on the epidemiology ring rot of potatoes, a very difficult pathogen to work on. He had a wry sense of humour and loved to drop by and tell a joke then stop again to elaborate on the first joke or tell a second for good measure.”
-Denis Gaudet

Ibra Lockwood Conners (1894-1989)

Ibra Lockwood Conners
Ibra Lockwood Conners (1894-1989)

Ibra Conners started as summer student in 1916 at the Agriculture Canada Lab in St. Catharines surveying for white pine blister rust. During the summer of 1919, he worked as a barberry scout under Dr. E.C. Stakman of the University of Minnesota. His MS thesis, under the direction of Prof. J.H. Faull at the University of Toronto, was on the biological specialization of Puccinia coronata on grass hosts. In 1920, he moved to the Department of Agriculture’s field station at Brandon, Manitoba and shortly thereafter, undertook a PhD program at the University of Minnesota, but he never submitted a thesis. Back in Brandon, he conducted studies on the biology of Ustilago bullata on western rye grass and find alternatives to formalin for its control, completed a study on the plant rusts in the Prairie Provinces in the herbarium of W.P. Fraser at the Saskatoon Research Station, and tested cereal varieties for smut resistance. In 1925, he transferred to the Agriculture Canada Research Station at Winnipeg, working with A.H.R. Buller and Guy Bisby at the nearby Manitoba Agricultural College and nearly a dozen plant pathologists at the Dominion Rust Laboratory. In 1929, Ibra transferred to the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa to prepare the reports on the occurrence of plant diseases published in the Canadian Plant Disease Survey and to curate the mycological herbarium. In 1939, he took on the duty of approving fungicides and fungicide-insecticides for registration under the Pest Control Act, a responsibility he held until he retired in 1962. He became assistant to the chief of the Botany Division in 1953. His retirement was scheduled for 1959, but the Department extended his service primarily to encourage the completion of the book An Annotated Index of Plant Diseases in Canada.

Ibra kept active during his retirement. He published the book Plant Pathology in Canada for the Canadian Phytopathological Society in 1972. He moved to West Lafayette, Indiana, in 1978 and assisted in the Herbarium at Purdue University and with bibliographical searches on rust fungi for Hennen’s Flora Neotropica project. In 1981, following an extended ‘vacation’ in Hawaii, he coauthored the Checklist of Plant Diseases in Hawaii.

Ibra was a Charter member of the CPS in December 1929 and served as its President from 1937 to 1938. He maintained an intense interest in the CPS and proudly attended its 50th annual meeting in 1979.

Ibra’s dedication and accomplishments were recognized in several ways: in 1974, Ibra’s colleagues marked his 80th birthday by dedicating Nos. 21-40 of Fungi Canadenses to him; the Canadian Botanical Association in 1979 presented Ibra Conners with the prestigious George Lawson Medal for his “distinguished contribution to the advancement of Canadian botany”; in 1987, Ibra was named Honorary Member of the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club in recognition of his contributions to the Club and to Canadian mycology.

“(I am unsure where I heard this story so if it is inaccurate, please alert me so I can change this entry). Because Ibra Conners was compiler of the Canadian Plant Disease Survey and was involved in regulatory approval of fungicides and nematicides, he knew most of the pathologists in Canada. Additionally, as Assistant Head of the Botany Division in the Department of Agriculture in Ottawa, he travelled frequently, by train from coast to coast, to sit with scientists to discuss their individual programs and do their appraisals. This process took considerable time and effort but was considered essential as part of the effective coordination among research programs in the Department. Imagine that happening today! It was this personal connection that Conners had with most pathologists in Canada during these trips across Canada that enabled him to write the book Plant Pathology in Canada published in 1972. I was able to publish the sequel to his book in 2010, Plant Pathology in Canada 1970-2008 only with the help of the following eight contributors, Verna Higgins, Guil Ouellette, Lu Piening, Bud Platt, Dick Stace-Smith, Jack Sutherland, Ron Wall and Roy Whitney and two technical editors, Bill Jarvis and Richard Gugel!”
-Denis Gaudet

“The first meeting of the CPS that I attended was the 50th Anniversary Meeting held in Lethbridge in 1979 in conjunction with the APS Pacific Division annual meeting. I had the pleasure of meeting the CPS charter members Ibra Conners, Melvin Cormack, Bill Broadfoot, A. W. Henry and Cecil Yarwood who were honoured at the meetings.”

-Denis Gaudet