Gail Lynn Schumann was born in Cincinnati, OH, and grew up in Kalamazoo, MI. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in botany in 1972 and received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology from Cornell University in 1976 and 1978, respectively. She initiated her academic career in 1984 at the University of Massachusetts following the care of a young daughter. She retired from that position in 2003 as professor emeritus and is currently adjunct professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.
Dr. Schumann’s academic appointment at UMass focused on teaching and extension for turfgrass pathology including diagnostic services. She served as the undergraduate curriculum coordinator and advisor for plant pathology until the program was eliminated. She restricted her graduate advising to a few M.S. students and encouraged a number of students to apply to plant pathology graduate programs at other institutions. Her limited research program focused on applied turfgrass pathology.
Each year she taught a course in general plant pathology, a general education biology course based on plant diseases, and several turfgrass pathology courses for both the 2-year and 4-year academic programs. Her current position at Marquette University, a private, Jesuit university, allows her to continue teaching and introduce a new audience of students to plant pathology in a core biology course for nonscience students and the introductory lab course for majors.
She published Plant Diseases: Their Biology and Social Impact as a textbook to be used in classes that taught biology to nonscience students. It was designed to help students understand disease biology and its relevance to their lives through practical applications in agriculture. Dr. Schumann’s classroom teaching has been recognized by a number of teaching awards including the APS Excellence in Teaching Award, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges Northeast Teaching Award, as well as additional teaching awards at UMass.
Dr. Schumann published many extension bulletins and disease notes and annually presented numerous extension education programs at turfgrass conferences in New England and around the United States. Those who work in extension will appreciate how many turf disease samples, phone calls, e-mails and other communications filled most days and how satisfying it was to help turfgrass managers on a daily basis. From a 2-day workshop taught through the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, she and her coauthors published IPM Handbook for Golf Courses. She was instrumental in initiating the newsletter Turf Notes and helped in designing the UMass Turf Program website on which she posted timely disease messages for her extension audiences.
Most of her professional activities have been focused on increasing the awareness of the importance of plant diseases to audiences external to the discipline of plant pathology and to enhancing the value of teaching at academic institutions. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, instructional technology began developing rapidly and this afforded Dr. Schumann with the opportunity to provide quality images and information on plant diseases to a broad range of audiences. With several coauthors, she published both slide sets and a videodisc of 10,000 disease images with accompanying disease lessons and glossaries in English, French, and Spanish. With coauthor James MacDonald, she designed a CD-Rom based on the Compendium of Turfgrass Diseases for turfgrass managers and students. For this effort, they received the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Media Award of Excellence in 1998. As chair of the ISPP Teaching Committee, she helped organize the first online Instructional Technology Symposium in 2001.
Dr. Schumann has served APS in many capacities. She was active in the Northeastern Division of APS, serving as president in 1995, and received their Award of Merit in 1996. She was actively involved in the APS Teaching Committee and served as senior editor of APS PRESS.In 2000, Dr. Schumann was offered the opportunity to help create the APSnet Education Center and its accompanying online journal The Plant Health Instructor. This fulfilled many of the goals that guided her other activities and publications. The K-12 section is designed to educate teachers about plant diseases and to provide them with complete and simple laboratory activities for their classes. The introductory plant pathology section is aimed at students in their first plant pathology course, but many of the laboratories and resources are relevant for students in microbiology and biology courses. To enhance use by international audiences, the first translation of a disease lesson into Spanish was published in 2005. More lessons translated into Spanish and translations in other languages are anticipated. The advanced section is designed to contribute to the education of traditional students as well as provide lifelong learning for working professionals. All instructional materials are peer-reviewed and receive a traditional citation in The Plant Health Instructor so the creative efforts of the authors can be listed easily in annual reports. There is also an instructor section designed to enhance communication among plant pathology instructors by providing the opportunity to publish peer-reviewed teaching notes and teaching articles. Dr. Schumann hopes that this website will continue to grow, serve the educational needs of various audiences, enhance the image of APS by providing this free resource, and contribute to the academic prestige of authors who contribute quality instructional materials and teaching scholarship. Although she will complete a second term as editor-in-chief for the Education Center at the end of 2005, she hopes to continue to generate new publications herself and through her relentless nagging of colleagues with quality materials and educational talents.