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Maguire Plants Seed for Graduate Fellowship

PULLMAN, Wash. — Jim Maguire retired from Washington State University three years ago after 39 years on the crops and soils faculty. But you wouldn’t know it.

The former professor and director of the WSU Seed Technology Laboratory has continued to teach part-time and has remained active in such organizations as the International Herbage Seed Production Research Group and American Seed Research Foundation, where he is a member of the Scientific Advisory Council.

He also has stayed in touch with many former students, both in the United States and abroad. Over the years, he taught or advised more than 700 undergraduate students, 30 U.S. graduate students and 18 scholars from other countries.

In a career filled with achievements, he is proudest of “seeing all these former scholars and students progress in their careers and to be able to mentor them.”

Many have become industry leaders. One directs the seed program in Bhutan, a tiny landlocked country between India and the People’s Republic of China. This spring, Maguire and his wife Jan will travel to Nepal on a study tour where he hopes to catch up with another former student who at one time served as the country’s minister of agriculture.

His commitment to students and the seed industry has led him to establish the Jim Maguire Graduate Fellowship in International Seed Technology. The fellowship will enable graduate students to participate in international seed conferences and explore seed technology in other countries.

Maguire believes that international experiences will be critical to their success because seed business doesn’t stop at the borders. “You can’t be isolated anymore and survive in the seed business.

“One time we were the major suppliers of wheat to Saudi Arabia. At that time certified Yecora Rojo wheat seed was selling at $32 a bushel. One of the biggest problems was people didn’t realize when Ramadan (the Islamic month of fasting) occurred. You couldn’t ship seed to that country during Ramadan. Nobody would move it. It would rot on the dock. You can’t learn that here.”

A minimum goal of $25,000 has been established to create this fellowship. Maguire will match each dollar given with one of his own. It will qualify for a state match when donations total $25,000.

“If it comes to fruition, we could award at least one and maybe two grants a year,” Maguire said. “I see this fellowship as one vehicle for me to continue to be involved in student activities, including their research and their development in their occupations. As a native Washingtonian and a graduate of WSU, I am a proud Cougar and believe in supporting academic programs.”

Maguire’s interest in seeds stems back to a job he had with the Bureau of Reclamation as a Settlers’ Assistance agent in Pasco from 1954 to 1956. His job was helping farmers convert barren desert into irrigated crop land. “I realized how critical seeds were to developing those farms,” he said.

That experience convinced the 1952 WSU graduate (B.S., Agronomy) to pursue a master’s degrees at Iowa State (and later a doctorate at Oregon State). Maguire returned to WSU in 1957 as an instructor in seed technology.

As a faculty member, he developed and taught courses in seed production and technology, processing and seed physiology. He team- taught a course on vegetable seed at the University of Idaho.

The role of the seed lab has evolved over the years from basic seed quality testing to creation of new techniques to measure seed quality of wheat, barley, legumes, alfalfa, Kentucky bluegrass and a variety vegetables.

A speed-of-germination test that Maguire helped develop in 1962 is still in use. The lab also developed a seed priming technique that gives the seed a head start before it’s planted and a seedborne disease detection test for Phoma lingam test that is used internationally for phytosanitary certification and marketing.

For further information about how to make a gift to the Jim Maguire Graduate Fellowship in International Seed Technology, contact Patrick Kramer, senior assistant director of alumni and development, WSU College of Agriculture and Home Economics, at (509) 335-2243 or

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