Robert Powelson Memorial Fund

The Robert Powelson Memorial Fund

Funds will be used to support educational programs of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. Contributions in memory of Dr. Powleson can be made to the Botany and Plant Pathology Endowment Fund in the name of the Robert Powelson Memorial Fund at the OSU Foundation.

Bob Powelson

Bob Powelson, fly fisherman extraordinaire, plant pathologist, passionate gardener, boatman, loving husband, and caring father died at his home in Corvallis, Oregon, on March 9, 2015. He lived a full and rich life of more than 84 years.

Robert Loran Powelson was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Loran George and Mabel Eliza Powelson on September 23, 1929.  Bob graduated from Utah State University in 1951 with a B.S. in Botany and Plant Pathology. He was in the ROTC program and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant upon graduation. From 1951 to 1955, he served in the U.S. Air Force, both at Frances E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and in Germany at the Bitburg and Fürstenfeldbruck Air Force Bases, where he was the chief supply officer.  Following his honorable discharge from the Air Force, he returned to Utah State University, where he earned a M. S. in plant pathology in 1956. He then moved to Corvallis to attend Oregon State University (OSU), where he completed his Ph.D. in plant pathology in 1959.

Bob joined the faculty of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at OSU in 1959, where he led a research team focused on the epidemiology and management of wheat diseases. In the early years of his faculty position, he taught an undergraduate plant pathology course. Later, he taught a graduate-level course in epidemiology and disease control. Bob specialized in cereal diseases, doing his research primarily in the semi-arid wheat lands of eastern Oregon. His research centered on survival and dispersal of wheat pathogens, particularly stripe rust, and several soilborne diseases. Bob was an excellent advisor and mentor for his graduate students, taking a close interest in their work and their personal lives as well. He taught them the importance of maintaining an appropriate balance between career responsibilities and other life activities. Many of Bob’s PhD students went on to have successful careers of their own in plant pathology, including Ralph Byther, Greg Shaner, Randy Rowe, Gary Beaver, Mark Halsey, and Mary McCoy, who later became his wife.

In December 1984, Bob retired from OSU and spent the next 30 years pursuing his many interests, including fly-fishing, camping with friends, clamming on the Oregon Coast, and creating a world-class vegetable, fruit, and flower garden.   He and his wife Mary fostered life-long friendships with Plant Pathology colleagues near and far, sharing dinners with their colleagues at OSU each month for more than 40 years, and hosting many memorable outings and gatherings with colleagues from around the globe. 

Bob is survived by his wife, Mary Powelson; his sister, Judy Folsom of Salt Lake City; his daughters, Jan Day (Michael Day) of Salem and Jo Lynn Moniz (Lawrence Moniz) of Seattle; stepson Mark McCoy of Kenai, Alaska; four grandchildren, Stephanie Colletta (nee Moniz), Brandon Day, Catherine Moniz and Jennifer Day; and a step-grandson, Hunter McCoy.

By Joyce Loper and Randy Rowe