PULLMAN, Wash. — Robert Kunkel, 88, who retired from the Washington State University faculty in 1974, has been inducted into the Utah State University College of Agriculture Alumni Hall of Honor.
He was the first to be so honored.
Kunkel received a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from USU (then Utah State Agricultural College) in 1937 and a doctorate from Cornell in 1945. In 1957 he joined the WSU faculty and was given the mission of saving Washington’s potato industry which was under heavy attack by internal black spot disease.
Kunkel’s research not only rescued the industry, but helped Washington farmers lead the nation in potato yield per acre. Kunkel wrote more than 100 scientific publications. He retired from WSU in 1974, but remained active. During the next two decades, he worked and visited in Bolivia, Egypt, Israel, and Russia as a researcher and consultant to the potato industries of those countries.
Richard L. Sawyer, Director General of the Consortium for International Development described Kunkel as the greatest living potato physiologist.
Kunkel and another alumnus were honored in ceremonies in Logan Thursday. They were the first two inductees into the Hall of Honor. Kunkel also received another, unique, honor from USU.
By prior arrangement his family took him to the football field where the USU coach stopped practice. The team surrounded Kunkel and he was presented an honorary football letter.
Kunkel had enrolled in USU on a football scholarship, but suffered a severe, career-ending back injury as a sophomore and didn’t letter.
– 30 –