‘Visionary Gift’ to Bolster Plant Breeding Program

For more than 50 years, Dr. Charlie Stuber has blazed a trail in genetics and plant science, pioneering research that transformed techniques in plant breeding worldwide.

At the same time, he’s dedicated himself to training students, preparing the next generation to blaze trails of their own.

In fact, Stuber came out of semi-retirement in 2006 to create the Center for Plant Breeding and Applied Plant Genomics at NC State (now the NC State Plant Breeding Consortium). As the center’s inaugural director, his success in raising funds for graduate fellowships, coordinating graduate student community activities and leading the implementation of distance learning propelled the already excellent plant breeding program to a whole new level.

Today, as Stuber approaches his (second) retirement, he wants this important work to continue.

To that end, he and his wife, Dr. Marilyn Stuber, who chaired the home economics department at Meredith College for nearly 30 years, have established an endowment to create the Dr. Charles W. Stuber Sr. and Dr. Marilyn M. Stuber Distinguished Professorship in Plant Breeding.

“Plant breeders are going to feed the world,” Charlie Stuber says. “All of the basic research that comes out of the laboratories has to be translated to the farmers in the field, and it’s the plant breeders who take that information and help farmers to develop more efficient varieties that yield better and that resist insects and disease.”

The couple’s gift also launches a unique one-year challenge initiative to further fuel research and innovation in agricultural and life sciences.

The Stuber Challenge aims to ensure the continued excellence of NC State’s flagship plant breeding program and to secure its prominence among top university plant breeding programs in the nation and the world. It will build on the couple’s lead gift to increase endowment support for the consortium’s faculty, students and programs.

Although her area of study is vastly different from her husband’s, Marilyn Stuber also has had tremendous success building a program from the ground up. During her tenure at Meredith, she expanded the number of concentrations in the home economics department from one to five and grew the faculty from two to 17. By the time she retired, the department had the largest number of majors of any department at Meredith. During her tenure, she also carried a full teaching load, advised 150 majors each semester and earned a doctorate in occupational education from NC State.

“For 49 years, Charlie and Marilyn Stuber have served the NC State University, Meredith College, and Raleigh communities with vision and energy,” said CALS Dean Richard Linton. “Each institution, the City of Raleigh and the scientific community at large have benefited from their academic excellence, administrative leadership and community service. We are grateful for their generous and visionary gift.”

NC State has a long history of excellence in plant breeding, with a historical strength in quantitative and statistical genetics, said Dr. Steve Lommel, associate dean and director of the N.C. Agricultural Research Service.

“Through a career that has spanned much of the history of excellence in statistical and quantitative breeding at NC State, Dr. Stuber has helped bolster our reputation as a national and international leader in this area,” he said.

Dr. Craig Yencho, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Horticultural Science and program leader of NC State’s sweet potato and potato breeding and genetics programs, agrees.

“In many ways, I view Charlie as the one of the grandfathers of our plant breeding programs at NC State,” Yencho said. “He has worked tirelessly to elevate and promote our programs while at the same time dedicating himself to the success of our graduate students. This gift has helped to secure the future of plant breeding at NC State, and for this I am very, very grateful and humbled. Charlie’s students and colleagues like me have a big obligation to fill.”

At the end of the day, Stuber says, it all comes down to students. He believes that they are the future of plant breeding research, the next leaders of an industry that feeds a growing world.

“The commercial seed companies are coming to NC State first for newly-trained students in this industry,” he says. “It’s our job to prepare them to hit the ground running … to give them the information and training they need. That is why Marilyn and I want to make this gift … we want this to continue on.”

For more information about contributing to the Stuber Challenge, please contact Catherine Maxwell, development liaison for the N.C. Agricultural Research Service, at 919-513-8294 or cjmaxwel@ncsu.edu.

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