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In Memoriam: Former WSU Horticulture chair Bill Ackley

Posted by | May 6, 2016
William Ackley
William Ackley

William B. Ackley, who taught horticulture at WSU for 35 years and chaired that department for a decade, has died at age 97.

Ackley, who passed away on April 18, was born June 5, 1918. He graduated from Kansas State College, served as an aerial photographer in World War II, and moved with his wife Margaret and newborn son, Richard, to WSU in 1947, where he finished his doctorate. His daughter, Kyanne, was also born in Pullman.

In 1948, Ackley joined WSU’s horticulture faculty for 35 years of teaching about fruit production, while developing treatments for tree-fruit disorders and refining irrigation methods. He travelled the state extensively, advising growers and in turn learning practical applications to share with students.

A talent for handling both detail and personalities was put to good use during his tenure as department chairman, from 1964 to 1974. Ackley’s experience in research and administration led to assignments expanding WSU’s contacts in Australia, New Zealand, and eastern Indonesia. The work in Indonesia took he and his wife, in their 60s, to a remote island, where they lived five months without running water or electricity, and hop-scotched in single-engine planes to unimproved airfields to help remote colleges set up agricultural programs.

For his contributions to the profession, he was elected Fellow of the American Society of Horticultural Science in 1970.

Larry Hiller, professor emeritus of horticulture at WSU, was Ackley’s last ‘new hire’ as department chair. He remembers Ackley helping him get started as an assistant and introducing him to students. “He was the perfect and wonderful collegiate mentor,” recalled Hiller.

A memorial reception is 1 to 3 p.m. Monday, May 23, at Ridge Point Clubhouse in Pullman. There will be an opportunity to share memories at 2 p.m. An obituary will run this month in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.