James D. MacDonald
James D. MacDonald was born in Portland, OR, in 1948. Growing up in a career Navy family, he lived in many different places around the world before his family settled in California, where he attended and graduated from high school. He received his B.S. (1973), M.S. (1976), and Ph.D. (1977) degrees, all in plant pathology, from the University of California (UC), Davis. He was appointed to the faculty at UC Davis in 1978, holding joint appointments in the Departments of Plant Pathology and Environmental Horticulture. He rose through the professorial ranks, served as department chair of plant pathology from 1995 to 1999 and, since 1999, has served as executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) at Davis. MacDonald has assumed a number of important leadership roles in service to UC and to APS, including president of our society in 2004.
MacDonald has sustained an extraordinarily high level of productivity in university and public service and professional activity. His activities with APS are particularly noteworthy. He has been very active in our society throughout his career, and his contributions are multifaceted, extensive, and substantive. He was a member of the Committee on Diseases of Ornamentals and Turfgrasses (1986–1989), secretary-treasurer of the Pacific Division (1988–1990), and an associate editor for Plant Disease (1991–1993). He served as the assigning editor (1993–1997) for Plant Disease Notes and as senior editor for APS PRESS from 1994 to 1997. At the time, he was a strong proponent of and provided creative leadership for our society’s initiatives in electronic communication technologies. He developed processes for fully electronic submission, review, and publication of Plant Disease Notes. Because of his progressive and innovative leadership in this area, he was appointed (in 1995) as the first chair of the APS Electronic Technology Advisory Committee. In 1997, he was appointed as the first director of the APS Office of Electronic Communications, serving in this capacity until 2002. He was responsible for working with the APS leadership and the Publications Board to make all the society’s journals available on-line, for redesigning the society’s web site (APSnet), for conceiving and organizing the launch of the all-electronic journal Plant Health Progress and the APSnet Education Center, for fostering the development of the Plant Management Network (which now houses four electronic journals), and for dealing with many policy and legal issues related to electronic publications. Related to his work with electronic communications have been his endeavors to adopt new technologies to improve the learning experience for students. In 1997, he coauthored with Gail Schumann a CD-Rom entitled Turfgrass Diseases: Diagnosis and Management through APS PRESS. As an application of computer technologies to present educational materials, this CD earned the 1998 Media Award of Excellence from The National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture. Also in 1998, he received the APS Excellence in Teaching Award and the Distinguished Service Award–Outstanding Faculty presented by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). These awards recognize his effectiveness in teaching, his creative use of advanced teaching technology, and his extraordinary efforts in research outreach.
His service to APS continued with his election as vice president in August 2002, leading ultimately to his leadership as president from August 2004 through the annual meeting in Austin, TX, in 2005. MacDonald’s election to the highest office in our professional society is a testament to the esteem and high regard in which he is held by his colleagues across the country and to his ongoing creative leadership in society policy and procedures. Throughout this period, he has been active in APS Council matters and special initiatives and projects. He is a visionary leader for APS, consistently suggesting innovations that will keep APS relevant to its members and society for decades to come. A member of the APS Public Policy Board (PPB) since 2003, he has been particularly active in the society’s interactions with federal agencies and national and state policy makers. For example, he has represented APS on initiatives in plant biosecurity, including leadership and liaison with the National Plant Disease Recovery System. This ongoing program is implementing plans to address high-consequence plant disease agents and involves federal and state agencies and land-grant universities. He currently chairs an ad hoc APS committee charged to assess existing capabilities and future needs in plant pathology education. Understanding that a meaningful initiative must be based on evidence, he began with surveys of the expected future needs for plant pathologists within academia, industry, and government and of the opinions of current plant pathology students. The survey results, which he presented to APS members at the national meeting in San Diego, CA, will be the focus, in 2008, of a national workshop to develop new strategies for meeting those needs. Through his efforts on the APS PPB, MacDonald has proved very effective at promoting the relevance of plant pathology and plant pathologists.
In addition to MacDonald’s leadership and extensive service to APS, it is important to recognize his duties as executive associate dean of CAES at Davis. This is the number two executive position in the college, and it carries a varied and demanding administrative workload with overall responsibility for day-to-day operations of the college. His responsibilities are in five major areas: resource planning and budget, academic personnel management, staff personnel management, CE and Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) administration, and other administrative duties and functions. He handles these duties superbly. He was instrumental in enabling the college to weather the challenges of the unprecedented and severe budget cuts in 2001–2003. This required extraordinary efforts and careful planning to adjust to the new order without devastating the college. He deserves a lot of credit for his participation in the conception and implementation of the various aspects of the plan. MacDonald is also an excellent representative of the college to the statewide DANR and in other committees of importance to AES. He has been especially active in promoting AES as a separate organizational entity with a clear mission, an effort to add greater definition and distinction to the responsibilities inherent in AES appointments. During his tenure, there have been many positive programmatic changes and new opportunities for CAES, including the Mondavi Institute, new facilities and renovations of old ones, and going forward with certain strategic initiatives in the college academic plan. In all of these, he has played a key role, and, in some, the key role, in planning or implementation. Space does not permit a full accounting of MacDonald’s substantial contributions to the college, campus, and the statewide DANR.