PULLMAN, Wash. — The paths of Norman E. Looney and L. George Wilson first crossed in the 1960s as students in the horticulture department at Washington State University. Both went on to distinguished careers in horticulture. Simultaneously they became presidents of the two most prestigious horticultural societies in the world. On Monday (Oct. 18), they received WSU’s Alumni Achievement Awards at a reception in the Lewis Alumni Centre.
During the August 2003 XXXVI International Congress in Toronto, Looney of the Pacific Agri-Food Research Center in Summerland, British Columbia, assumed the presidency of the International Society for Horticultural Sciences for the next four years.
At the same meeting, Wilson, vice provost for international affairs at North Carolina State University, became president of the American Society for Horticultural Science. His presidency coincided with ASHS’s centennial year (2003). The international society meets every four years, and the national society meets annually. Both individuals were previously honored as Fellows of the ASHS.
Looney holds a bachelor’s degree (’60 Agri. Educ.) and a doctorate (’66 Hort., with honors) from WSU. His doctoral dissertation was published in the scientific journal Nature.
Wilson received a master’s degree in horticulture in 1963. He was the first horticulturist to serve as a U.S. Congressional Fellow, 1990-91. He has been in his current position since May 2002. For the previous five years he was coordinator of International Programs in NCSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He joined the faculty in 1975 as a professor of horticultural science and postharvest Extension horticulturist. For three years during his time at the university, he has led university programs and assignments in Peru and Bulgaria.
Earlier he worked nine years as a research Postharvest physiologist and technology transfer specialist for a multinational food production and parting corporation in Honduras and in other banana and tropical crop regions.
Wilson is author of more than 240 scientific and technical publications and has traveled in more than 40 countries. He grew up on the family fruit, vegetable and dairy farm in Niagara County New York, graduated from Cornell University before coming to WSU for a master’s degree and earned a doctorate at Michigan State University.
Looney developed a strong network of international colleagues through hosting visiting scientists from abroad in Summerland, working with colleagues during sabbaticals in Australia, England and New Zealand, and coordinating development and activities for the International Society for Horticultural Sciences working groups and symposia.
His major contributions to temperate zone pomology (science of fruit cultivation) include discoveries relating to the physiology and horticultural control of fruit ripening, fruit set, fruit tree flowering and the improvement of fruit quality. He has produced new information about natural plant growth substances and about the use of synthetic bioregulators in fruit production.
He has had more than 75 publications in refereed scientific journals and more than 75 popular or miscellaneous publications, including 24 book chapters and conference proceedings. After earning a doctorate at WSU in 1966, he joined the Agriculture Canada Research Station in Summerland, British Columbia, as a research scientist, pomologist and plant physiologist. Since 1997, he as been principal scientist emeritus for the horticulture and environmental program at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (formerly Summer Research Centre).