Henry M. Munger

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Long-time ASHS member and distinguished vegetable breeder, classical geneticist, and educator Henry M. Munger died 25 Aug. 2010 in Ithaca, NY, at age 94. Born 10 May 1916 in Ames, IA, he was raised in Byron, NY after his family returned there to live on the Munger family farm. He was educated at a nearby one-room school and later graduated from South Byron High School, going on to Cornell University at age 16. As an undergraduate, he boarded with Charles and Ethel Hill, who years later introduced him to their tenant Norma Gibson, whom he married in 1950.

Dr. Munger received his BS from Cornell in 1936, his MS from Ohio State University, and his PhD from Cornell. From his 1941 doctoral research came the first fusarium wilt-resistant muskmelon, ‘Iroquois’. He started teaching at Cornell in 1942 and was head of the Department of Vegetable Crops for 15 years. Over the course of his career he advised more than 60 PhD students, many of whom, along with his colleagues, he regarded as his second family. His breeding work with melons, cucumbers, squash, onions, and tomatoes resulted in numerous new, disease-resistant varieties available to commercial growers and home gardeners.

Dr. Munger joined ASHS in 1940 and in 1995 was the first living person inducted into its horticultural Hall of Fame. Widely recognized for his teaching and research, he was the recipient of the World Seed Prize, Honorary Doctor of Science from University of Nebraska, Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award, and many other awards.

In addition to vegetable breeding, Dr. Munger was dedicated to improving vegetable production worldwide. He did consultative work in the Philippines, Egypt, Ecuador, and India, and in 1974 was part of the U.S. plant science delegation to the People's Republic of China. He was a strong advocate for the potential of vegetables to enhance nutrition and health throughout the world, looking forward to a second Green Revolution, one brought about by horticulturists.

In his community, Dr. Munger was a long-time member of the Rotary Club and the First Presbyterian Church. He was among the original residents of the Kendal community at Ithaca.

He was predeceased by his wife, Norma, in 2004, and by his two sisters Eunice “Bicky” Ferguson and Mary Elizabeth Derby. He is survived by his daughters Martha (Don Mowry) Munger of Mondovi, WI, and Nancy Munger of Eastham, MA; grandchildren Evan Munger Mowry and Glenna Munger Mowry; and nine nieces and nephews.

Donations may be made to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences of Cornell University, 274 Roberts Hall, Ithaca, NY 14850; or to United Way of Tompkins County, 313 N. Aurora St., Ithaca, NY 14850.

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