Campus News

Professorships established in agricultural marketing, horticulture

An endowed professorship in horticulture and another in agricultural marketing have been established in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Both professorships were approved by the University System Board of Regents at its September meeting.

The Michael A. Dirr Professorship for Wood Plant Instruction honors the legendary horticulturist and retired UGA professor. Based in UGA’s horticulture department, the holder of the professorship is expected to engage in teaching, research and/or public service in the area of woody ornamental plant breeding and development.

The professorship has been filled by David Knauft, former associate dean for academic affairs in UGA’s agricultural and environmental sciences college (see story at right). Knauft will maintain a woody plant breeding and development program that supports the interests of the horticulture industry.

“Dirr’s influence has left a mark on the horticulture industry and on the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences that will not soon be forgotten,” says Scott Angle, dean and director of CAES. “I am very pleased that his love for plants will remain at UGA through this professorship and through Dr. Knauft.”

The new agricultural marketing professorship is based in the department of agricultural and applied economics.

“We created the agricultural marketing professorship to recognize faculty with outstanding scholarship and achievements in this vital field and are extremely pleased that the board of regents saw fit to approve this much-needed position,” says Angle. “I am currently pulling together a search committee from the college to find the absolute best person to fill this opening.”

The professorship is intended to recognize faculty with exemplary scholarship and achievements related to agricultural marketing in research, teaching and/or extension. It also is expected to provide faculty with additional resources for the continuation of their professional development and success during their tenure in the department. Eligibility for the professorship is limited to tenure track faculty holding the rank of full professor in the agricultural and applied economics department.

The endowment for this professorship received an initial contribution of $50,000 from the Milton M. Ratner Foundation.

Now retired and living in North Carolina, Dirr operated a roadside fruit and vegetable stand as a child, an interest that evolved into his passion for horticulture. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ornamental horticulture operation and management from Ohio State University in 1966 and 1971, respectively, and a Ph.D. in plant physiology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1972.

In 1979, Dirr became director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, where he was instrumental in raising $3 million for the new Visitor ­Center/Conservatory Complex and also charted a course for a plant collections development. He returned to teaching and research at UGA in 1981 and was promoted to professor in 1984.

Dirr has authored or co-authored seven books. The fourth edition of his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants-Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses has sold more than 250,000 copies. Dirr co-produced, with Penn State University’s Charles Heuser, The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation, which has become the standard reference for plant propagators.