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In memoriam: Charley Hess

Charley Hess
Charles E. “Charley” Hess, a UC Davis Medal recipient and dean emeritus of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences who never took the word “retirement” seriously, died April 13 of congestive heart failure at the age of 87.

Helene Dillard, who studied for her advanced degrees in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, or CA&ES, during Hess' time as dean, is now the dean herself — fully cognizant of Hess' role in the college's status as a global leader in agriculture.

“We would not be where we are today without Charley's vision and leadership,” said Dillard, a plant pathologist who was appointed dean in January 2014 a few months before Hess received the UC Davis Medal, the campus's highest honor. “Charley was a wonderful colleague, an inspirational teacher, a tremendous mentor and a dear friend to our college and the people we serve.”

Hess earned a Bachelor of Science degree in plant science at Rutgers University, a Master of Science degree in horticulture and plant pathology at Cornell, and a Ph.D. in horticulture, plant physiology and plant pathology, also at Cornell. He joined the Purdue faculty in 1958, then returned to Rutgers in 1966 as chair of the Department of Horticulture and Forestry. He advanced to acting dean of Rutgers' College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 1971 and two years later became the founding dean of Rutgers' Cook College (today known as the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences).

He became the dean at UC Davis in 1975 and held the post until 1989. His faculty appointment was in the Department of Environmental Horticulture (now part of the Department of Plant Sciences).

Born into agriculture

He was a natural in the plant world, born Dec. 20, 1931, in New Jersey, into a family with a nursery business in Wayne. He could have joined the business after college, but the science bug bit him. Still, as an academic and administrator, he developed strong relationships in agriculture at all levels, from small businesses like his family's, to industry giants — and, of course, with student farmers, too, having been an enthusiastic supporter of the UC Davis Student Farm since its inception in 1977 in his second year as CA&ES dean.

The farm eventually became part of the Sustainable Agriculture Research Education Program that was established later during his tenure as dean. He also participated in the development and funding of California's Integrated Pest Management Program and the UC Davis Biotechnology Program, and he facilitated the move of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Western Human Nutrition Center from San Francisco to UC Davis.

He stepped down as dean, after 14 years, to accept an appointment by President George H.W. Bush to be the assistant secretary for science and education in the USDA, serving from 1989 to 1991. Prior to that, Hess had two presidential appointments to the National Science Board, the governing board of the National Science Foundation.

Hess accepts the UC Davis Medal

He was one of the principle architects of the National Research Initiative, which evolved into the competitive grants program of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

Yolo County farmer Richard Rominger '49, former deputy secretary at the USDA and director of the state Department of Food and Agriculture, said: "Charley was a much loved and respected leader at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and at UC Davis, recognized for his accomplishments and contributions to the greater world of agriculture, education and science.”

Back on campus, he took an appointment as UC Davis' first director of international programs in 1992. He officially “retired” in 1994 but kept right on working in international programs until 1998. He would go on to serve as special assistant to the provost and chancellor, 2003-04; and subsequently held temporary positions as chair of the Department of Nutrition and vice chancellor of research.

He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society for Horticultural Science, and had been inducted into the society's Horticulture Hall of Fame. The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the USDA also had honored him for distinguished service.

Hess is survived by his wife of 38 years, Eva, and their son, Peter Hess, and four children from his earlier marriage to Marie C. Lilliedoll: Mary Foster (and husband Mike Foster), Carol Hess Allan, Nancy Hess (and husband Garry Buchko) and John Hess. Other survivors include daughter-in-law Akiko Ogura; and five grandchildren, Julie (Foster) Mecca, Brian Foster, Alex Buchko, Jules Buchko and Emma Hess.

His family is planning a memorial celebration for late May. Dateline UC Davis will post an announcement when the arrangements are final.

Other contributors to this report: Diane Nelson, senior writer in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; Maril Stratton, associate chancellor emerita; and Pat Bailey, retired senior public information representative.

Read the full story at https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/dean-emeritus-charley-hess-dies-87.

 

 

Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at 12:27 PM
  • Author: Dave Jones, Dateline UC Davis editor

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