College remembers Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug

BORLAUG, FATHER OF GREEN REVOLUTION, DIES
Iowa native Norman Borlaug died Saturday at the age of 95 of complications of cancer. The distinguished professor of international agriculture at Texas A&M University was one of five people who won the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal, all for his work in combating world hunger. In 1986 he created the World Food Prize to give recognition to the work of scientists and humanitarians who have contributed to advancing international agriculture and fighting world hunger. Today's Iowa State Daily story on Borlaug includes comments from Dean Wendy Wintersteen and Mark Honeyman, coordinator of ISU Research and Demonstration Farms. The ISU Northeast Research Farm dedicated a new facility, the Borlaug Learning Center, in honor of Dr. Borlaug on Sept. 2. A link to the Daily story: http://www.iowastatedaily.com/articles/2009/09/13/news/local_news/doc4aad5d6e83eaf750508596.txt. Several others in the College contributed recollections of Borlaug and his work.

DEAN WINTERSTEEN'S TRIBUTE TO NORMAN BORLAUG: A GREAT MIND, A GREATER HEART

A tribute to Dr. Borlaug by Dean Wendy Wintersteen was printed in the Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009, edition of the Sioux City Journal. Dean Wintersteen wrote: “Borlaug always will be remembered for his great mind and his greater heart. Ten days before he died, Iowa State dedicated a new research and education facility in his honor at our research farm near Nashua, about 40 miles from his boyhood home. The Borlaug Learning Center will attempt to emulate its namesake’s commitment to advancing research and extension and ‘getting it to the farmers.’”

 

ACKER REFLECTS ON BORLAUG'S LEGACY AS EDUCATOR
David Acker, CALS associate dean for academic and global programs, remembers Dr. Borlaug: “When I worked with Dr. Borlaug on the selection committee for the World Food Prize, he exhibited a wealth of information that extended well beyond plant breeding. He understood the details of soil management, pest protection, nutrition, agricultural extension, grain processing, agricultural policy, etc. He was, by far, the most widely knowledgeable person I have ever met across the range of disciplines that impact the well-being of poor people. Dr. Borlaug is best known for his research accomplishments, but I knew him as an extraordinary teacher who had a sincere and powerful commitment to educating the next generation of scientists and development professionals. He never missed an opportunity to educate and inspire young people across the U.S. and the world. He participated fully in the World Food Prize Youth Institute every year and interacted with more than 100 young people at such events. He would often tell them that he thought the Youth Institute was far more important than the symposium he had just left involving luminaries from government, industry and research institutes around the world.”

PESEK REFLECTS ON BORLAUG AND 'THE POPULATION MONSTER'
John Pesek, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences and emeritus professor of agronomy, shared the following thoughts upon the death of Norman Borlaug: “Dr. Borlaug did not rest on his laurels, but kept on working, mostly transferring his efforts to promoting the use of selections of improved amino acid balance corn, called Quality Protein Maize, developed by CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) in Mexico for nourishment of infants and very young children specifically in Africa, but applicable elsewhere ... All Dr. Borlaug actually claimed from the beginning, immediately after winning the Nobel Prize, was that, he had gained a generation of time for the human species to get control of 'the population monster.' Even then he recognized the problem as being uncontrolled population growth and that his technological fix was good for only 20 to 25 years, given what we knew at the time. That phrase, 'population monster,' exemplifies his understanding of his world, and is as true today as it was then.”

CALS SENIOR INTRODUCED TO AGRICULTURE BY BORLAUG
Claire Wandro of Des Moines is a senior in global resource systems and, as a high school student, was a World Food Prize intern. She said she mourns the loss of Dr. Borlaug: “I not only remember a great scientist and humanitarian, but a great teacher. Dr. Borlaug introduced me to the field of agriculture and his legacy will continue to inspire students like me who look to change and help the world through agriculture.”

HERMAN REFLECTS ON BORLAUG'S INSPIRATION TO NEXT GENERATION
Amber Herman is a 2006 CALS alum in public service and administration in agriculture with a secondary major in international agriculture. She also was a Truman Scholar in 2006 and a former World Food Prize intern. She is assistant to the director of the Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives in the U.S. Department of Agricutlure. She remembers Borlaug this way: “Norman Borlaug was passionate about inspiring the next generation of agriculturists dedicated to addressing the challenges of global hunger. Indeed, he inspired me. The first time I volunteered with the World Food Prize, I was assigned to help Mr. Borlaug with his coat as he arrived at various events. I remember asking him for career advice. He simply responded, 'Learn another language so you can communicate with local people.' In my own research travels to Africa, I made sure to learn the indigenous language of the people. Now, I am studying Spanish. Mr. Borlaug's commitment to the World Food Prize has also helped the state of Iowa remember its roots in humanitarianism and service to those in need in our own neighborhoods and all over the world. Norman's legacy will live on in the young people that are part of the World Food Prize Youth Institute. Today, we remember and celebrate a hometown hero and reflect on how we all can work together to end global hunger.”

TREE HONORING BORLAUG FLOURISHES NEAR CURTISS HALL
A red oak north of Curtiss Hall has flourished since it was planted on July 29, 1982, in honor of Norman Borlaug. A plaque on a rock near the tree states: “Dedicated in July 1982 to Norman E. Borlaug, Agricultural Scientist and Nobel Laureate.” The tree dedication was organized by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) as part of its 10th anniversary observance at ISU, at which Borlaug was a guest speaker. At the CAST anniversary meeting, Borlaug's topic was the place of science in the policy-making process of agriculture. From the north entrance of Curtiss Hall, the Borlaug red oak is the second tree on the sidewalk angling northwest toward Catt Hall.

INFLUENCE OF IOWA STATE-EDUCATED AG TEACHER ON BORLAUG
This excerpt is taken from the 2006 authorized biography of Borlaug, “The Man Who Fed the World,” by Leon Hesser: “[Norman Borlaug started high school in Cresco in 1929.] At high school, Norm's classes were oriented toward agriculture. Rather than preparing young people to go to college, the courses were looked at as preparation for boys to go back and work on the farms. Even then, the vocational agriculture teacher - Harry Schroeder, a recent graduate of Iowa State College - sensed that Norman had a keen mind and had an innate curiousity about the processes of plant growth and the nature of soils. Norm says, 'Under Mr. Schroeder's direction, our crops class set up one of the first on-farm chemical fertilizer tests on hybrid corn in Howard County.' ”

BORLAUG RECALLS HUNGER IN MINNEAPOLIS AS A FRESHMAN IN '33
The following excerpt is from a transcript of an interview with Norman Borlaug that aired in August 1997 on the “Common Ground” radio program: “In 1933, when I went to Minneapolis to register to go to the university, there was a couple of weeks before classes started. So I wandered, starting walking in downtown Minneapolis. First time in a big city. And here was all of these unemployed lying on the streets asking for a nickel to buy a cup of coffee and, what do you call them? White Castle hamburgers ... I happened to wander down in North Minneapolis, down in the market section. Didn't even know where I was. Big mass of churning people. A strike. Milk and vegetable producers. I'm standing there like a little country boy in the big city and all at once there's a photographer climbed up to take a picture of this mass of churning people. And I'm standing there beside this car. And somebody grabbed him and took him and busted his camera and the first thing you know I was in the middle of a terrible riot. And I saw all of these things and coming from the country where I'd never seen hunger. So because of all of these I had a very strong social concept of what it was like in other countries.”

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STUDENTS IN AGRICULTURAL AND RELATED SCIENCES PRESIDENT AND CALS SENIOR COMMENTS ON BORLAUG
Emma Flemmig, president of the International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences and a senior in agronomy and biology, had this comment: "Dr. Borlaug's comments inspired me to change the way that I think about equality. 'It's not just about production, Emma. It's about distribution! We've got grain rotting in bins in India while the people starve on the street,' he said to me once over a meal at CIMMYT in Mexico. At that age, I was just stunned that someone like him would want to take the time to sit down and talk to me at my naive age of 18. He also said, 'The first time I ever saw hunger was when I went to college during the Depression. In rural Iowa, we were all poor on the farm, but at least we always had food. Hungry looks different than poor.' Looking back, these were the comments that inspired me to address inequality and to make sure that agricultural solutions were more than science--that they were innovations for humanity, not for profit. If not for him, I would not have realized that hunger exists everywhere and that it is caused by inequality in power - power that comes from education, economic and social capital. Lack of access to nutritious food happens in the poorest places and in the richest. All wealth usually does is mask the powerless who were pushed down to generate and concentrate it in the hands of few. If it were not for Dr. Borlaug, I would still be living in one of the wealthiest places in the world, unaware that there were problems with this, and I would not be committed to taking my good fortune and channeling it towards building a global agricultural and food system that spreads equality and access, rather than marginalization and poverty."