PULLMAN, Wash. — With 55-gallon drums full of gasoline strappedto their vehicles, Washington State University’s James D. Maguire and a group of other expatriots dashed over the roadless desert for four days, from Kadugli to Khartoum, Sudan.
A coup resulted in grounding all airplanes, stranding them in Kadugli. The only way back to their homes in Khartoum was to brave the desert heat and marauding rebel bands.
“The dash,” in 1982, may have been Maguire’s most exciting experience during more than 40 years with WSU, but the retiring seed specialist never has been bored by his work.
Maguire, who retired in August as director of the WSU Seed Technology Laboratory, began his career helping farmers convert the barren Columbia Basin into a lush, irrigated cornucopia. While working as a settler’s assistance agent in Ephrata and Pasco, 1954-1956, Maguire discovered an interest in seed production that shaped the rest of his career.
“My job in the Columbia Basin convinced me that I needed more training in agronomy, including seed production,” Maguire recalls. “While working with establishment of forage legumes, I realized that seed was the critical component in this process.” So he went to Iowa State College where he received a master’s in agronomy in 1957, specializing in seed production.
Maguire returned to WSU in 1958 as a seed technologist and instructor. During a leave of absence, the scientist received a doctorate in seed physiology, from Oregon State University, in 1968.
Looking back on his long WSU career, Maguire takes special pleasure in establishing the WSU Seed Technology Laboratory and in his association with students.
“I enjoyed most teaching and advising students here and abroad,” Maguire says, “and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
Maguire was named the outstanding advisor in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics in 1991-1992. He has advised 18 master’s and five doctoral students. For 15 years he has sponsored French interns from the University of Lille and the University of Paris.
Maguire’s influence in the seed industry reaches around the globe and will endure in the careers of his students, many of whom have become industry leaders.
One became the minister of agriculture in Nepal. Another is director of the seed program in Bhutan, a tiny nation near India. Others have become directors of seed laboratories, presidents of seed companies and one became director of the Washington State Crop Improvement Association.
The international dimension has received emphasis in Maguire’s career. In addition to teaching many foreign students, Maguire served as chief of party for a WSU project in Jordan (1987-1989) and for the past five years he has taught a short course on new crop development at the University of Lille, France. He helped develop seed programs in India, Sudan, Cameroon, Jordan and Poland.
Maguire took sabbatical leaves to study seed physiology at the University of Paris, University of Nottingham, and University of Redding, England.
Maguire is an active member of the International Seed Biology Program, the International Herbage Seed Production Association, the International Seed Testing Association, the Association of Official Seed Analysts and the Regional Seed Evaluation project.
His contributions to the seed industry were recognized with the Seed Science Award from Crop Science Society of America, 1995. Maguire’s research included seed vigor, aging and deterioration, including seedborne diseases.
In 1962 he helped develop a speed of germination test still used to determine seedling establishment.
He has also developed a cold test to evaluate the vigor of cereal seeds and a solid-matrix priming technique to invigorate seed and a technique for eradicating TCK smut in wheat. The TCK smut eradication technique could become important in exports to China. With WSU’s Dick Gabrielson, Puyallup, Maguire developed the Phoma test now used throughout the world on all crucifer seed to detect blackleg (Phoma lingan). Marketing requires phytosanitary certificates attesting that seed is free from blackleg.
In retirement, Maguire will continue teaching part-time at WSU, teach the class at the University of Lilly, do consulting in the seed industry, hunt large game, fish, ski cross country, and enjoy his cabin — sans telephone — at Lake Chelan. Recently he has taken up sailing and woodworking.
Jim and his wife, Jan, will remain residents of Pullman. WSU is establishing a seed technology scholarship in his name. Additional information is available from Elizabeth Peterson, (509) 335-2243.
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