Stuber Retiring as Director of the Plant Breeding Consortium

After a distinguished career spanning six decades, Dr. Charles Stuber is retiring as the founding director of the NC State’s Plant Breeding Consortium.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Associate Dean for Research Steve Lommel said that a national search for the next consortium director has commenced and that Dr. Paul Murphy, a small grains breeder in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, has taken the reins as interim director.

Lommel noted Stuber’s contributions in both science and education. “Charlie was instrumental in the development of DNA marker-assisted selection technology used in major plant breeding programs worldwide,” he said, “and he influenced scores of graduate students.”

Students: ‘An Immense Impact’

Some of those students – the officers of the Plant Breeding Club – prepared a joint statement calling Stuber “an exceptional role model.” In the statement, conveyed by club president Lais Bastos Martins, they noted his immense impact on the lives of students at NC State.

They also said he addressed their concerns, supported their participation in professional conferences, encouraged them to be active members of the local and national plant breeding communities, and raised funds for student fellowships. The consortium has funded 41 graduate students so far.

“Dr. Stuber will be sorely missed by students and faculty alike, and he remains a mentor and inspiration for us all,” they wrote.

A Leader in an Area of Strength

Stuber, who earned a Ph.D. in genetics and experimental statistics in 1965, joined the university’s faculty that year as an assistant professor of genetics. After serving in various roles within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NC State, he had a brief retirement. In 2006, he rejoined the university to establish what was then called the Center for Plant Breeding and Applied Plant Genomics.

The center was designed to stimulate collaboration among about 30 university breeders from four departments and two colleges. Lommel said that this collaboration has been important in sustaining the university’s stature as one of the world’s leading plant breeding programs.

“In addition to that, he and his wife, Marilyn, have made significant contributions that will support the Plant Breeding Consortium’s work for years to come,” he added.

When the Dr. Charles W. Stuber Sr. and Dr. Marilyn N. Stuber Distinguished Professorship in Plant Breeding was established last year, CALS Dean Richard Linton remarked on the influence of Charlie’s dedication and its implications for North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative (PSI).

“His passion is one of the key pieces that have made plant breeding so strong at NC State,” Linton said. The endowment “will make a huge difference in what our college is trying to do with through the North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative.” That initiative is aimed at bringing together scientists together from multiple disciplines to solve vexing agricultural challenges while making North Carolina the world’s hub of plant science innovation.

‘A Huge Economic Impact’

Paul Murphy standing in front of a shrub.
Paul Murphy is a small grains breeder at NC State.

Murphy, who has worked at NC State as a small grains breeder for 34 years, became interim director earlier this month. Involved with the consortium since its start, Murphy said his focus as interim director will be to maintain the consortium’s momentum as the search for a new director continues.

“There is rapid movement on the PSI front that we need to focus on,” Murphy added. Meanwhile, the consortium members are working together to review and update courses to prepare students for successful careers in the increasingly fast-moving field of plant breeding. They also are looking at areas where new plant improvement faculty members will be needed.

“The plant breeding group at NC State never ceases to amaze me,” Murphy said. “I came across some recent figures that show the ornamental plant breeders in the Department of Horticultural Science have produced varieties with a retail value of $378 million since 2004.

“This is a huge economic impact from just a small number of applied plant breeding faculty. Repeat this over the diversity of basic and applied research that is being conducted at NC State, and you have a remarkable, dynamic group that is really making a difference. That is why it is exciting to be included amongst the North Carolina plant breeding faculty — they are making substantive contributions to the lievelihoods and wellbeing of producers, processors and consrumers.”

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This post was originally published in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences News.