Randall C. Rowe was born in Baltimore, Maryland; grew up in suburban Detroit, Michigan; and graduated from Michigan State University with a B.S. degree in botany in 1967. While at Michigan State, he gained his first exposure to plant pathology, working in faculty laboratories in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. He earned a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology at Oregon State University studying the epidemiology of Pseudocercosporella foot rot of wheat. Following graduation in 1972, he spent 2 years at North Carolina State University doing post-doctoral research on disease development and pathogen dispersal of Cylindrocladium root rot of peanuts, the first studies on this new disease.
Rowe joined the Department of Plant Pathology at The Ohio State University in 1974, located at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, where he served as a faculty member until his retirement in 2006. During the first half of his career, his research and extension responsibilities dealt with vegetable crop diseases, with primary research emphasis on fungal root diseases. Beginning in 1989, Rowe took responsibility for department administration, first as associate chair, leading activities on the Wooster campus, and then, from 1996 until his retirement, as chair, with responsibility for both Wooster and Columbus department locations.
Rowe has made many contributions in the study of vegetable crop pathology. Early work on Fusarium crown and root rot of greenhouse-grown tomatoes showed that airborne microconidia were responsible for recolonization of steam-sterilized soil by the pathogen, which could be prevented with a fungicide drench. With several students and colleagues, his laboratory made major advances in understanding potato early dying disease, showing that it resulted from a synergistic interaction between Verticillium dahliae and the root-lesion nematode Pratylenchus penetrans. The use of vegetative compatibility analysis revealed the existence of several pathotypes of V. dahliae, one of which was highly associated with potato early dying. Considerable efforts were directed toward the development of yield-loss, risk-assessment models for this disease for use in potato IPM programs.
Throughout his career, Rowe worked closely with vegetable and potato growers in Ohio and nationally to assist in disease management. He conducted extensive tests of fungicide efficacy and application strategies; published numerous bulletins, fact sheets, and trade journal articles; and made many field visits to assist both commercial and home gardeners. Working with colleagues across the country, Rowe wrote and edited Potato Health Management, the second title in the Plant Health Management Series, which was published in 1993 by APS PRESS. His research and extension efforts led to publication of more than 200 journal papers, books and book chapters, technical articles, and extension and trade journal reports. His accomplishments have been acknowledged by the Ciba-Geigy (now Syngenta) Agricultural Achievement Award from APS, the APS Fellow Award, and the Wittmeyer Distinguished Service Award from the Ohio Vegetable and Potato Growers Association.
Rowe joined APS in 1968, while in graduate school, and has served in APS leadership positions throughout most of this time. Early in his career, he chaired several APS committees, including the Soil Microbiology and Root Diseases Committee and the Fungicide and Nematicide Data Committee, and served as section editor for Fungicide and Nematicide Tests. He served as a member of APS Council from 1984 to 1994, having been elected as North Central Division councilor, councilor-at-large, and then as vice president. As APS president in 1992–1993, Rowe led the development and implementation of the first strategic plan for the society, worked to reorganize the structure and function of APS Council, and spoke widely to audiences about important issues facing plant pathology and the land-grant system. As immediate past president, Rowe chaired the 1993 ad hoc committee Plant Pathology Beyond 2000, established to identify priorities for plant pathology in the twenty-first century.
After serving on APS Council for 10 years, Rowe led a review of the impact of Phytopathology and then served on an ad hoc committee to determine how APS should change the marketing of its journals to maintain financial stability as publications moved into the electronic era. In 2005, as he approached retirement, Rowe again moved into society leadership and accepted council’s appointment as APS treasurer-elect. He began his term as treasurer in 2006 and was appointed to a second term in 2009. During his years as treasurer, he helped simplify the presentation of the society’s budget and financial position to council and to the membership. He worked to clarify roles and responsibilities of the APS business centers, worked with APS Foundation to streamline their budgetary process, and stressed to council the importance of diversifying income sources to ensure financial stability of the society into the future. Rowe will complete his service as treasurer in 2012, having served on APS Council a total of 17 years. He believes strongly in the role of APS in professional development and leadership training and plans to continue to serve the society where appropriate.