George William Hudler was born in Cloquet, MN, and received his B.S. degree in forest management and M.S. degree in plant pathology from the University of Minnesota in 1970 and 1973, respectively. Hudler received his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Colorado State University in 1976. In that same year, Hudler was appointed senior extension associate in plant pathology at Cornell University, where he was responsible for service and subject matter related to diseases of trees and shrubs. In 1978, he became an assistant professor in what is now the Department of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology at Cornell University with responsibilities for teaching, extension, and research. He achieved the rank of associate professor in 1987 and professor in 1997. He served as chair of the department and director of the Northeast Region, National Plant Diagnostic Network from 2004 to 2011. During this period, he oversaw the administrative consolidation of Cornell's two plant pathology units, at Ithaca and Geneva, into one. He currently serves on the faculty of the department as professor and Stephen H. Weiss presidential fellow.
Hudler is a widely respected extension specialist and researcher whose expertise in the pathology of trees and shrubs is sought throughout the northeastern United States. In recent years, his research has addressed Phytophthora cankers of European beech trees and diseases of willows grown for biomass. His richly illustrated newsletter, Branching Out, An Integrated Pest Management Newsletter for Trees and Shrubs, has completed its 20th year, having been published 10–11 times throughout each growing season. It is sustained in large part by gifts and subscriptions, which testify to its value to arborists, nursery managers, and Christmas-tree farmers in New York State and adjacent areas. Each issue has scouting reports, pest and disease news and alerts, information about management practices, and a feature article. In 2012, Hudler and coeditor Dawn Daily O'Brien published Branching Out: Features from the Past for the Future, an indexed 296-page reference manual consisting of feature articles from the newsletter, updated and augmented with many new photos and organized in functional categories, such as “Host-Specific Diseases”. Hudler is also responsible annually (for 35 years!) for the section on “Disease and nematode control for trees and shrubs” in Cornell’s Pest Management Guide for Commercial Production and Maintenance of Trees and Shrubs.
Each summer for many years, Hudler has collaborated with entomologist Greg Hoover of Penn State University and the New York State Arborists Association to offer two three-day outdoor courses on Field Diagnosis of Insects and Diseases of Trees and Shrubs. Hudler also travels the state, region, and country as an invited speaker who promotes awareness of fungi, plant diseases, and pests and their importance in human affairs. A consummate story teller with tales such as “Great Moments in History and How Fungi Got Us There”, he is in demand by audiences ranging from arborists to golf course superintendents to nursery managers, master gardeners, community organizations, alumni groups, plant pathology units at other universities, and The American Phytopathological Society.
Hudler is also a nationally recognized master teacher who has promoted awareness of plant diseases and the lifestyles of fungi in thousands of students and lay people who would otherwise have had little or no contact with these subjects. He is probably best known for his course, Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds, which is one of the most popular at Cornell University and has been emulated at several colleges and universities across the United States. Hudler has offered Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds since 1989. It was written up early on in Rolling Stone magazine and has become nationally famous in plant pathology and mycology circles. More than 8,000 students have taken the course and more than 500 now enroll annually. It is a general education course with no prerequisites. The two weekly lectures are stage performances packed with information yet delivered with great wit, warmth, and storytelling ability. They are supplemented by laboratory demonstrations three times during the semester, each one available several days, so all students have a chance to see, read, touch, and taste what is there and talk with the professor and teaching assistants. At the end of the course, Hudler and his crew cook up and serve a buffet feast of fungus foods, including mushroom pie, yeast-risen mushroom bread, Marmite, stinky cheeses, and truffle butter. Beginning in 2006, Hudler augmented the course with optional one-credit laboratory/discussions. A senior colleague known to be stingy with praise attended the lectures and commented that Hudler is “a truly extraordinary teacher with a flair for arousing the interest, excitement and active participation of the hundreds of students attending each lecture.” Another added, “You have never seen such an astonishing collection of mushroom neckties in your life! He wears a different one to each lecture.” Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds has also produced an important instructional bonus—effective training of many teaching assistants.
In 1998, Princeton University Press published a book with the same title as the course. Nine of the 14 chapters cover topics that are important or central in plant pathology. Approximately 16,000 copies have been sold, which makes the book a best seller among mycological and plant-pathological writings. Hudler also teaches Pathology of Trees and Shrubs and at various times has taught Plant Disease Diagnosis and Biology and Management of Plant Diseases. Students in all of his courses have rated them and the teacher as excellent.
Hudler has received numerous awards at the college, university, state, and national levels for teaching, extension, and research. Most recently he was named a Menschel Distinguished Teaching Fellow in Cornell's Center for Excellence in Teaching and was chosen by the Princeton Review and ratemyprofessor.com as one of the nation’s top 300 professors (across 60 fields, including agriculture as one). George Hudler is eminently deserving of recognition for his many accomplishments by appointment as a fellow of The American Phytopathological Society.
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