Tom Evans honored by American Phytopathological Society

The University of Delaware’s Thomas A. (Tom) Evans has been made a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS).  Since 1965, just 547 of the society’s 5,000 plus members have achieved Felllow status, no more than 0.2 percent in any year.

Evans will be recognized at a reception on July 30 during the 50th anniversary meeting of the International Congress of Plant Pathology (ICPP2018) hosted by APS in Boston, Massachusetts.

UD has the distinction of being the first academic institution in the U.S. (and perhaps the world) to establish a professorship in plant pathology.  Frederick D. Chester was appointed to the position in 1888, concurrent with the establishment of the Delaware Agricultural Experiment Station.

Tom Evans honored by American Phytopathological SocietyThe Department of Plant Pathology, which began in that year, continued until 1967 when the departments of plant pathology, agronomy and horticulture in the then College of Agriculture were merged into the Department of Plant Science, now the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

There have been 25 professors of plant pathology in the 130 years since the founding of department. John Huberger, who was department chair from 1947 to 1967, is the only other plant pathologist at UD to be honored by APS as a Fellow.

To be elected an APS Fellow, a nominee must make outstanding contributions in one or more of the following areas: original research, teaching and professional or public service.  APS Fellows are selected for exceptional accomplishments that have advanced the science of plant health through publications, teaching and public outreach and service.

Evans has been doing all of that for three decades at UD. As professor of plant pathology, he has established himself as a leader in the area of plant health and food security on local, national and international levels.

He has maintained robust research programs in support of Delaware’s vegetable processing industry and established international research projects in Ecuador, Morocco, Egypt, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.  In 2010, Evans received President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award from the Bureau for Food Security for his thousands of hours of service to the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Feed the Future Program.

Evans has published over 81 peer-reviewed papers, numerous extension publications and proceedings and has delivered numerous invited presentations and workshops both in the U.S. and abroad.

For the past 20 years, supported by a number of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI) competitive grants, Evans’ research group has worked on the etiology and management of downy mildew of lima bean, the cornerstone of the Delaware vegetable processing industry.

Evans’ findings have led to a better understanding of the race structure of the causal agent, Phytophthora phaseoli, and the nature of resistance in lima bean to this important pathogen.  This work, along with the development of a new on-line Risk Management Tool for Lima Bean, has saved millions of dollars for the industry over that period.

Evans also played a pivotal role as a scientific advisor to the first National Summit on Rose Rosette Disease held in Newark, Delaware in 2013 leading to the funding of another multistate USDA-NIFA SCRI grant proposal in 2014.

Evans maintains the east coast screening facility for the development of resistance to the most important disease of cultivated rose.  Evans has secured research grants in excess of $6 million over his career and has advised 16 M.S. and Ph.D. students, served on 25 additional graduate committees and advised dozens of undergraduate students.

Over his 32 years at UD he has taught six courses to over 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students both on campus and on study abroad.  These courses include Introductory Botany (5x), People and Plants: Feast or Famine (25x), Vegetable Science (6x), Plants of Ecuador and the Galapagos (7x), Introductory Plant Pathology (15x), Diagnostic Plant Pathology (8x), Plant Virology (10x) and Current Concepts in Plant Health (25x).

He consistently receives excellent teaching evaluations with comments noting his passion and knowledge of the subject and his ability to explain concepts in simple terms.  Evans served APS’s teaching committee for 10 years, serving as chair in 2000.  In 1990, Evans was part of a team that developed the first multimedia platform for teaching plant pathology entitled A Plant Disease Video Disk Resource, which included 20,000 images of plant diseases and pathogens, a searchable database and an image glossary.  Evans was an early leader in plant pathology outreach to K-12 classrooms and for five years led a group of plant pathologists providing workshops to science teachers throughout Delaware.   Evans developed and led one of the first study abroad programs in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and led 10 programs to Ecuador and the Galapagos serving more than 200 students.

Evans has been a member of APS since 1982 serving as the vice-president, president and councilor of the Potomac Division of APS and was awarded their Distinguished Service Award in 2000.  He served APS as a member of the Office of International Programs and chair of the Library Support program for seven years.  He served as an associate editor of the Journal of Plant Disease, senior editor of the APS Education Center and currently serves on the editorial boards of the Mediterranean Journal of Phytopathology and Italian Journal of Mycology.  In 2015, he was elected to membership of the Accademia dei Fisiocritici at the University of Siena, Italy, one of the oldest scientific societies in world with members that include Carl Linnaeus and Louis Pasteur. Evans served the International Society of Plant Pathology  as treasurer from 2008-2013 and is serving as vice-president from 2013-2018.  He is the organizing chair of the ICPP2018 in Boston this summer.

Photo by Kathy Atkinson

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