Remembering Dr. Reed Funk

By |  November 7, 2012

Last month Dr. C. Reed Funk, professor emeritus at Rutgers University, passed away following a brief bout of pneumonia. He was 84.

Bruce Clark, Ph.D., described Funk in a statement as a “pioneer in the field of turfgrass breeding,” noting that he is credited with the development of hundreds of cool-season turfgrass cultivars with dramatic improvements in pest and stress tolerance. “Many of his germplasm releases, such as ‘Manhattan’ perennial ryegrass and ‘Rebel’ tall fescue, are considered landmark cultivars and have served as a foundation for many of the new turf-type cultivars used throughout the world today,” Clark stated.

Golfdom research editor Clark Throssell, Ph.D., described Funk as a “true icon of turfgrass science and the turfgrass industry.”

“Reed made incredible improvements in cool season grasses that are used on golf courses, home lawn, sport fields and other turf areas around the world,” Throssell said. “Reed was a fine person, humble, willing to help and generous with his time and talent.”

Later in life Funk took his expertise and set it towards a worthy goal: battling world hunger. He created a successful non-profit program called Improving Perennial Plants for Food and Bioenergy that worked to develop highly nutritious and sustainable tree crops that are able to be grown on marginal land.

“When I teach turfgrass management and the discussion turns to cool season grasses and cultivar improvements over the last 50 years you cannot avoid mentioning Dr. Reed Funk. His impact on turfgrass breeding is unmatched,” said Karl Danneberger, Ph.D., Golfdom‘s science editor and a professor at The Ohio State University. “But the thing I mention to students is that yes he was extremely bright and had a strong belief in work ethic, but it was who he was that impressed me the most. Dr. Funk proved that nice guys could finish first.”

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