WSU receives $3 million for endowment to bolster food security

Washington State University announced a $3 million gift to establish the Rosalie & Harold Rea Brown Distinguished Endowed Chair in Plant Pathology.

Murray stands in a wheat field holding a black and white wedding photo of his grandparents.
Tim Murray, holding a photo of his grandparents Rosalie & Harold Rea Brown.

The gift, from the Rosalie & Harold Rea Brown Foundation, will be used by the chair to conduct research bridging discoveries from basic science to develop applied solutions for producers, directed toward reducing losses caused by plant diseases and thereby improving food security.

“The investment from the Rosalie & Harold Rea Brown Foundation to support plant pathology faculty and research at WSU is truly transformational for the program, for WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), and for Washington State University,” said Lisa Calvert, vice president of Advancement and CEO of the WSU Foundation. “Philanthropic investments in WSU fuel innovation and discovery that improves lives, communities, and industries throughout the state, region, and world.”

Tim Murray, professor, WSU Extension plant pathologist, and chair of the Department of Plant Pathology, is the recipient of the new endowment.

“Tim is an excellent scientist and professor,” said André-Denis Wright, dean of CAHNRS. “He’s the best choice to be the first to hold this chair. His research is already helping to improve food security, and the additional resources from this endowment will continue that for years to come.”

Murray is also the grandson of Rosalie Marie and Harold Rea Brown.

“This donation means so much to the department and me personally,” Murray said. “It will help with the work I do on food security issues and it will help future scientists in the department to conduct translational research. It is also personally rewarding, knowing that my grandparents’ names will be associated with WSU research that is helping feed the world.”

The foundation and this endowed chair are funded by businessman Harold Brown, but are named for his parents, Murray’s grandparents. Rosalie Brown was a native of Belgium and emigrated to the U.S. when less than a year old. Harold Rea Brown was a native Washingtonian, born in Seattle to a family who homesteaded in the Wenatchee area.

“On behalf of the entire WSU community, I thank Harold Brown and the Rosalie & Harold Rea Brown Foundation for the remarkable investment this gift represents in leading faculty, research and teaching in CAHNRS,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “Philanthropic support through endowed professorships and chairs amplify the depth, quality, and impact of innovative research and teaching university-wide as WSU continues its drive to be among the top 25 public research universities in the nation.”

“I have been fortunate to do well in business and now, through my efforts as trustee of the Rosalie and Harold Rae Brown Foundation, want to give back to a cause that is not only personally important to me, but addresses a great need in society, food security,” Harold Brown said.

A WSU alumnus and career-long Coug, Murray received his bachelor’s degree in plant science from the University of California, Davis in 1978, his master’s in plant pathology from WSU in 1980, and his doctorate in plant pathology from WSU in 1983. He joined the WSU faculty that same year. He previously served as chair of the Department of Plant Pathology from 2000–2008 before taking over once again in 2019.

His research focuses on wheat diseases, pathogen resistance, and sustainable methods of disease management. Murray has published over 100 scientific papers, nearly 300 technical and popular press articles, abstracts, and book chapters, and is author and editor of four books. He is a fellow and past president of the American Phytopathological Society.