Dean Zuiches steps down; researcher tabbed interim

James J. Zuiches, who has served as dean of Washington State University’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics since 1995, will step down from the post effective Aug. 9. R. James Cook (photo right),who has held the Endowed Chair in Wheat Research at WSU for five years, will become interim dean of the college.

“Dr. Zuiches’ successful efforts and guidance for almost a decade are seen in the exceptional strength and national and international visibility of the faculty and the quality of the educational, research and outreach programs serving citizens across the state,” said Robert Bates, provost and academic vice president.

Success in fund raising for college initiatives, planning and development of the college infrastructure statewide and leadership on national agricultural initiatives such as the Safe Food Initiative are hallmarks of Zuiches’ efforts to advance the college.

A WSU administrator since 1986, he was appointed director of the Agricultural Research Center and associate dean in that same year. He served as program director, food systems and rural development for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation during a professional leave in 1994. Zuiches became dean of the college, director of the Agricultural Research Center and director of Cooperative Extension in 1995-2000.

Zuiches said, following a research leave, his plans include continuing to work on studies that support college programs, including the Safe Food Initiative, and to work on public policy issues as a faculty member.

“The work of the university is never finished, but I am confident that the direction has been set, the plan is in place, and the faculty will continue to provide excellent programs,” Zuiches said.

“I am delighted that James Cook has accepted the interim dean position. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1993 and is truly a leader in his field,” Bates said. “He is an agricultural visionary and his experiences will serve him well in his new role. I look forward to working with him in the year ahead.”

In 1988, Cook led the team of researchers at WSU who made the first field test of a genetically modified organism in the Pacific Northwest — a microorganism for control of root disease in wheat.

For the past 10 years he has worked at the interface of science and policy on biotechnology applied to food and agriculture. He chaired an international working group that produced the 1993 report of Organisation Europenne de Coopration Economique (OECE) on Safety Considerations for Biotechnology Scale-up of Crop Plants; coauthored a white paper, “Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture,” released jointly in July 2000 by the Brazilian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Third World, United Kingdom and U.S. academies of science; and served on the USDA Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology.

Cook is currently serving a three-year term on the National Academies’ Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy.

He was a research plant pathologist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service at Pullman from 1965 through March 1998, conducting research on biological approaches to control root diseases of Pacific Northwest wheat. He has co-authored two books on biological control of plant pathogens and one book on the health management of wheat.

Cook received a bachelor’s degree in 1958 from North Dakota State University, a master’s degree in 1961 from North Dakota State University and a doctorate in 1964 from the University of California, Berkeley.

A national search for a permanent dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics will begin in the fall.

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