One of the most significant ways to recognize outstanding contributions to the potato industry and to our organization, The Potato Association of America, is the awarding of Honorary Life Membership (HLM). This is the highest award bestowed upon an individual by the PAA. Each year at the Annual Meeting of the PAA this award is given to deserving individuals and is considered by many attendees the highlight of the banquet.

Allan French

Allan has been involved with the potato industry for 36 years. He has a love of the potato industry that is best seen in his ability to develop relationships with people. Allan’s commitment to and sustenance of the potato industry exemplifies what the Potato Association of America expects of an Honorary Life Member.

Allan has a vast knowledge base about most aspects of the potato industry.  Allan has worked in export market development, seed growing and generation, seed buying and selling, variety development, and processing potato areas.  Allan has worked all over the world in potatoes: Turkey, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico, Argentina, Russian, Yugoslavia, China, and Chile.  Allan’s expertise in the seed potato arena has led to him being hired as a consultant (after his retirement) with Simplot.  Allan’s understanding and commitment to what makes a great processing potato variety has led to him being a person of knowledge for the potato variety development part of our industry.

Allan’s 31 plus years at Simplot saw many victories from his work and knowledge; learning where potato production around the world is feasible, keeping the Western Idaho area in potato production with the introduction of the Shepody variety, and helping to develop a viable variety development program. Maybe most importantly, Allan’s aptitude at engaging with people has led to many business opportunities and successful deals for Simplot.

Allan has also contributed his vast knowledge of potatoes to the potato research community and numerous PAA members.  He has participated on the Idaho Potato Commission Research Board, the Northwest Research Consortium, and numerous specific industry issue meetings (example: WERA-89 virus meetings).  Allan could always be counted on to bring a real world, successful business perspective to the researchers that would allow for more significant and meaningful research being conducted for the potato industry.

Allan has been a member of the PAA and attended annual meetings at various times throughout his 36 year potato career.  Allan has worked very closely with many members (I would say the majority of the Northwest PAA members have worked with Allan) of the PAA. Specifically, Allan has been very involved with variety development and all of the researchers involved with any sort of variety research. His openness and ability to answer questions for the research community has been invaluable.

Allan is the epitome of a worthy and influential potato industry member.

                                                                                                                                                        Rebecca Jones


Robert (Rob) D. Davison

Robert Davidson, Professor Emeritus, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Colorado State University, May 18, 2017


I have known Rob since June 1983 and have found him a tremendous help, always willing to cooperate with others in the potato industry, the seed certification community, the seed certification section of the PAA and the PAA. His great interest in the PAA allowed him to often function as a liaison between seed certification officials and the PAA. Below is Rob’s career as a member of the potato community and family.

Rob retired at the end of June 2016 and lives in Fort Collins, CO.

Rob didn’t exactly plan for a career in potatoes. He graduated from Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana with a degree in Microbiology in 1975. While Microbiology was a passion, Rob realized that a career in clinical pathology was not for him, since he didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news constantly diagnosing disease/illness. Instead, he took a job with the Montana Certified Seed Potato program as a lab supervisor. Somewhat unexpectedly, he found great pleasure in studying potatoes, opting to continue his education by earning another Bachelor of Science followed by a Master’s degree in Botany. While enrolled in school, Rob continued working full time in the lab, even overseeing up to 25 employees during the busy summer testing season. In 1982, Rob accepted the position of Assistant Manager of the Colorado Certified Seed Potato Program. Under the guidance of Ken Knutson, Rob learned managerial skills that would aid him when he became manager.

A short time after moving to Colorado, Rob decided yet again to further his education by obtaining a PhD in Plant Pathology at Colorado State University, all the meanwhile, working his full time job. After becoming an official Doctor, his wife, Grace, asked if higher degrees existed. To her immense relief, Rob replied, no, signifying the official end to his graduate level education. Grace and their two children, Cristin and Nathan, breathed a collective sigh of relief as Rob had been taking classes or working towards a higher degree for 12 of their 14 years as a family.

After Rob stepped down as the manager of the Colorado Certified Seed Potato Program, he accepted the position as manager of the San Luis Valley Research Center. He attended scientific meetings, performed research, managed the research center and even accepted an interim San Luis Valley Extension Director position for a couple of years. He published several scientific articles with co-workers in the American Journal of Potato Research.

Throughout his career, Rob’s philosophy was to always help out wherever possible. For instance, Rob helped set up a potato disease identification lab in Hungary through a program called Volunteer Overseas Cooperating Agency (VOCA). He also assisted John Bamberg by editing papers for publication. Rob held the treasurer office for the Potato Association of America (PAA) Pathology Section. Rob also serviced as Vice-President and then President of this organization. Rob always believed the PAA meetings were of great value to the Colorado potato growers and brought back relevant and important scientific information to help the growers maintain successful crop production. The meetings were also a means of keeping in touch with colleagues from around the world, a group of people he truly admired. Rob mentored graduate students at Colorado State University in the Department of Agriculture and guided high school students, as far away as San Antonio, Texas, in their science fair project endeavors.

Rob was and is known throughout the potato community as somebody, who goes out of his way to help others. He was active and supported me at the UNECE level. He helped me when I arrived in Minnesota to become his colleague. We have cooperated very well, when Colorado moved their winter test to Oahu and joined Minnesota there.

Rob realized there was more to life than potatoes. His “other” life includes a great love of the outdoors and involvement in the community. Rob moved to the San Luis Valley not only for the job, but equally as important for the incredible access to hunting, fishing, and hiking. While living in Monte Vista, Colorado, Rob was involved in church, Boy Scouts, and 4-H. He taught his children that in order for society to thrive, they should be productive members of the community they lived in and Rob worked to set an example through his actions.

Rob currently lives in Ft. Collins, Colorado, with Grace. He looks forward to filling his days with visits to family (Montana, Maryland, Texas, Alaska, and Massachusetts) and friends, fishing, hiking, traveling, reading, cooking, and doing whatever suits his fancy. Should anyone find themselves in the Ft. Collins area, there is always a welcome mat out and a place to stay. Rob is quite a good cook, so meals may even be an added bonus. He received a smoker for Father’s Day and is getting quite good at smoking ~ meat that is!

                                                                                                                             Willem Schrage (HLM, 2016)


Jeffrey (Jeff) C. Suttle


Jeff Suttle grew up under diverse settings, traveling with his family as his father worked for the military abroad and in the U.S., but spent his high school years in San Antonio, Texas.   He graduated from The University of Texas with a degree in botany and then proceeded on to Michigan State University where he obtained his PhD in plant physiology in 1979.  Jeff was quickly hired in 1979 by the USDA-ARS as a research plant physiologist in Fargo, ND.  Jeff maintained a keen interest and sharp expertise in the physiology of plant hormone metabolism from the time he was in graduate school and throughout his research career with ARS.  Immediately after joining ARS, his research dealt with the mechanism of action of synthetic plant growth regulators with emphasis on chemical defoliants and the manipulation of organ abscission in agricultural settings. The potato industry and research community was indeed fortunate that in 1991 Dr. Suttle was redirected to conduct research on the identification and modulation of the cognate processes that regulate potato tuber dormancy during postharvest storage.  In 1999, he was appointed “Acting Research Leader” and in 2000 “Research Leader” of the USDA-ARS Sugarbeet and Potato Research Unit in Fargo, ND.  This appointment afforded Jeff the opportunity to personally interact at another level with representatives of the potato industry and develop an even greater empathy and broader view of the real issues confronting this sector of American agriculture.  His potato research career and accomplishments continued to flourish, benefiting the potato industry and consumer while also making strident advances dealing with our scientific knowledge of strategic areas of potato tuber dormancy.

During Jeff’s 36 year research career, he authored/co-authored 85 refereed journal articles and invited reviews on nearly all aspects of plant hormone and growth regulator research including: hormone quantification, biosynthesis, receptor characterization, mechanism-of-action, and metabolism.  Since 1991, his research focused on determining the hormonal and cellular bases for potato tuber bud (eye) dormancy.  In these studies, he initiated the elucidation of physiological mechanisms regulating tuber dormancy and the molecular bases for dormancy induced growth arrest.  His research proceeded from the identification of the endogenous hormones involved in tuber dormancy control to the biochemical mechanisms regulating hormone content during dormancy progression, and recently initiation of the determination of the molecular (genetic) bases for dormancy-imposed changes in hormone synthesis and metabolism focusing on ABA and cytokinins.

Jeff has been involved in the PAA and related activities since he began his research program on potato tuber dormancy and associated mechanisms that control tuber sprouting in storage. He has helped to organize PAA symposia, presented many oral and poster research summaries of his research at PAA meetings over the years, and served as senior editor for the American Journal of Potato Research.  Jeff provided management and oversite of the USDA-ARS research lab in East Grand Forks, MN to assure continued assessment of new genotypes for potato processing quality and storability for cooperating laboratories across the U.S.  Jeff’s interest and dedication to the PAA and the potato industry continues even after his retirement with his participation as part of the hosting group for the 2017 PAA meeting held in Fargo, ND.

It is most fitting that Dr. Jeffrey C. Suttle be inducted as an Honorary Life Member in the PAA and that his induction be officiated at the 2017 PAA meetings held in Fargo where Jeff made globally recognized advances in the understanding and control of potato tuber dormancy and sprout control.

                                                                                                                                        Ed Lulai (HLM, 2016)