In January, Dr. Neil C. Gudmestad, University Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology at North Dakota State University, was named the Neil C. Gudmestad Endowed Chair of Potato Pathology, by NDSU President Dr. Dean Bresciani. The endowed chair position was created as the result of an endowment established by the contributions of potato growers, processors, agricultural chemical manufacturers and other allied industries from throughout the United States. Forty donors from 13 states contributed to the Neil C. Gudmestad Endowment in recognition of his many research contributions to the management of potato diseases over a 38 year career. More than $4.2 million was raised by the donors which in turn obtained a 50% match from the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund, making the total endowment worth $6.3 million.

Dr. Gudmestad began his professional career as a research assistant working on potato diseases in the Department of Plant Pathology at NDSU in 1977. In 1978 he was named the plant pathologist for the North Dakota State Seed Department, the seed certification agency within the ND Department of Agriculture, a position he held until 1983. His responsibilities were the clean seed stock program and development of pathogen diagnostics for seed potato production. While working for the ND State Seed Department he obtained his PhD at NDSU in plant pathology in 1982. Dr. Gudmestad returned to the Department of Plant Pathology at NDSU as a research associate in 1983 and was named an assistant professor of plant pathology in 1985 with responsibilities on the management of seed borne diseases of potato, an area of research emphasis that continues to this day.

Dr. Gudmestad has been recognized for his research program numerous times at NDSU throughout his career. He was given a Meritorious Service Award by the National Potato Council in 2000. More recently, and in recognition for his research on the zebra chip disease of potato, he was a co-recipient of the Vice Chancellor Award in Excellence by Texas A&M AgriLife and the IPM Team Leader Award, Entomological Foundation, Entomology Society of America, both in 2012. In 2014 he was also a co-recipient of the NIFA Partnership Award for Mission Integration of Research, Education and Extension, the highest honor that organization can bestow.

The primary purpose of the endowment is to provide assurance that a successor can be identified to continue Dr. Gudmestad’s potato pathology research program at a high level upon his retirement, tentatively set for 2019. An advisory group has been established consisting of nine donors to the endowment, five of which will be on a rotating basis, one each year. The endowment advisory committee will provide valuable input as to the important potato disease problems in the U.S. that require research, provide guidance into asset allocation of funds derived from the endowment, and to work with the university to recruit and identify Dr. Gudmestad’s successor.