H. Marc Cathey

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Mark P. Widrlechner USDA-ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station Ames, IA

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Henry Marcellus (Marc) Cathey, noted horticulturist and administrator, died on 8 Oct. 2008 in his hometown of Davidson, NC, following an extended illness and Parkinson's disease. Born in Davidson on 23 Oct. 1928, he was the son of the late Carl and Emily Cathey. He had been a member of ASHS since 1954, and, among his many high honors, received numerous awards from ASHS, including the Alex Laurie Award, the Leonard H. Vaughan Award, and the Environmental Quality Research Award. He was named an ASHS Fellow in 1972.

Marc began his academic studies at Davidson College, then transferred to North Carolina State University, where he received his BS degree in 1950. After two years of experience as a florist, he then attended Cornell University where he received both his MS and PhD in horticultural science under the direction of Dr. Kenneth Post. After graduation in 1955, he became a Fulbright Scholar and studied at the Agricultural University in Wageningen, The Netherlands.

On completion of his postdoctoral studies, he returned to the United States in 1956 and joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, MD, as a research horticulturist, where he worked until 1980. Marc's research on the interrelations of light, temperature, and chemicals on the growth and development of floral and nursery crops resulted in many scholarly publications and the creation of practical guidelines that benefited both commercial growers and consumers. He became head of the Florist and Nursery Crops Lab at Beltsville in 1959, and also served as an adjunct professor of plant physiology at George Washington University, Washington, DC, from 1958 to 1967.

For the 1980-81 academic year, Dr. Cathey relocated to the Ohio State University to become a visiting professor and fill the first D.C. Kiplinger Chair in Floriculture, where he conceived the idea of an Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center as part of an assessment of floricultural research needs. Later in 1981, he was appointed as the fourth director of the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC, where he would serve skillfully until 1991, when he was named National Chair for Florist and Nursery Crops Review for the Agricultural Research Service. Under his leadership, many new gardens and exhibits were developed at the National Arboretum through close collaboration with the Friends of the National Arboretum, National Bonsai Foundation, National Capital Area Federation of Garden Clubs, and many other organizations. During this time, he also spearheaded a revision of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, resulting in the widely used map published in 1990.

After his retirement from a distinguished career in federal service in 1993, at an age when many step back from the working world, Marc began a second term as president of the American Horticultural Society (AHS) (a post he first held from 1974 to 1978). During his tenure, he coordinated the release of AHS's Plant Heat Zone Map and coauthored a book on heat zone gardening. In addition, he served as co-editor-in-chief of the AHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. He continued his affiliation with the organization by serving as its president emeritus from 1997 until 2005, when he and his wife returned to North Carolina.

Marc is survived by his wife of 50 years, Mary Jackson Cathey; their daughter, Marcy E. Cathey, and her husband, Aaron Frank; their son, Henry M. Cathey, Jr., and his wife, Jodi; and four granddaughters.

Marc was a very effective communicator, not only as a respected and widely cited author, but, for many years, in great demand as a dynamic lecturer and radio and television personality. Within the discipline of horticultural science, he also used his communication skills and shared his expertise to inspire and mentor many students and young scientists. His devotion to making the world a finer and more beautiful place through the transformative power of plants was unmatched. He truly lived by his words: “Green is the color of hope, and in the color of plants is our hope for the future.”

Mark P. WidrlechnerUSDA-ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station Ames, IA

Mark P. Widrlechner USDA-ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station Ames, IA

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