Plant Pathology Graduates Create Research Endowment at Iowa State University

April 4th, 2012

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University alumni Esmail and Mary Zirakparvar have funded a research endowment in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State.

The Zirakparvar Research Endowment in Plant Pathology is intended "to advance the excellence of research within the department to continue its world class reputation," according to the donors. Both earned plant pathology degrees at Iowa State under the guidance of professor Don Norton, a nematologist, with Esmail earning master's and doctoral degrees in 1977 and 1979, and Mary graduating with a master's degree in 1980.

After a long international career in the agricultural industry, Esmail Zirakparvar retired as president and CEO of Bayer CropScience Inc. in 2006. Mary worked in the nematology field at Clemson University and North Carolina State University for a number of years following her graduation from Iowa State.

"For six years, Don Norton guided my scientific formation and demonstrated a wonderful way to deal with people," Esmail Zirakparvar said. "I am indeed fortunate to have trained under this legend in the field of nematology and this great example of true human dignity."

Norton joined the Iowa State faculty in 1959 and retired in 1989. He died in 2007. Zirakparvar delivered a presentation at the Dr. Don C. Norton Lecture, held at Iowa State in 2008 to honor his former professor.

Thomas Baum, chair of the plant pathology and microbiology department, said this is the first research endowment established in the department.

"Earnings from this endowment could be used to recruit graduate students or for fellowship support to help attract excellent students," he said. "That's the challenge we all have — to get the best students. This will be a great tool to do that."

The plant pathology and microbiology department has 21 faculty members. About 40 graduate students study and conduct basic and applied research.


Thomas Baum, Professor and Chair, Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology (515) 294-2398,

Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communication Service, (515) 294-2314,