Raymond D. Martyn, Jr. was born in Washington, DC, and spent his early childhood in Indiana before moving to Florida to complete his primary and secondary education. He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Florida Atlantic University and was awarded a Ph.D. degree from the University of Florida. After completion of his doctoral program, Martyn accepted a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Texas A&M University, rising to the rank of professor in 1992. In 1997, Martyn accepted the position of professor and head of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Purdue University, serving as head for eight and a half years.
Martyn’s initial research focused on biological control of aquatic weeds, and he led an effort to document the effectiveness of a biological control program to rid Lake Conroe—a 20,000-acre reservoir—of an invasive weed species. Shortly thereafter, Martyn embarked on a long career working on soilborne diseases of melon and watermelon. He identified and characterized a new race of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. niveum (FON), casual agent of fusarium wilt of watermelon, that was virulent on all resistant cultivars and instrumental in demonstrating the role of seed transmission in dissemination of the pathogen. Subsequently, his group identified a new source of resistance to the new race that has been adopted by breeders and seed producers. He went on to study numerous aspects of fusarium wilt of watermelon, including the global distribution of races, induced resistance, soil solarization, interactions with root-knot nematode, and construction of the mtDNA RFLP map of FON. He collaborated with colleagues on other fusarium wilt diseases, including fusarium wilt of cotton and sugar beet. In the late 1980s, a vine decline disease of unknown etiology began causing extensive losses to cantaloupe and watermelon in Texas. Martyn and colleagues led the effort to identify and characterize the pathogen, Monosporascus cannonballus, investigate the epidemiology of the disease, develop a rapid PCR-based detection protocol, identify and associate dsRNAs with a degenerative and hypovirulent pathogen phenotype, and develop effective management tactics. Martyn supported his research with grants from a variety of sources, totaling nearly $2 million, and became recognized worldwide as an expert on Fusarium wilts and soilborne diseases of melons and watermelons. His research efforts can be characterized by the effective use of good science in the solution of problems affecting different clientele groups.
Martyn had a significant teaching load during most of his career and quickly established a reputation as one of the best instructors in the department. During his 20 years at Texas A&M University, he taught five different courses and taught one or two classes every semester. In addition to classroom teaching, Martyn mentored numerous M.S. and Ph.D. graduate students. He was recognized multiple times for his effectiveness as an instructor and student mentor by being named Outstanding Professor of the Department (1979, 1980, and 1994). He was recognized at the college level at Texas A&M University with the Distinguished Teaching Award in 1995.
It is in the area of service that Martyn has truly excelled. Throughout his career, he has been selfless at devoting his time and energies to the service of our science, his professional societies, and the academic institutions where he was employed. As head of the Botany and Plant Pathology Department at Purdue University, Martyn coordinated the job search and hiring of 11 faculty members during a time when most universities were downsizing faculty. Many of these faculty members played a substantial role in the department’s recognition within the college as one of most successful in securing extramural support for their research and extension programs. Also during this time, the graduate student program increased by more than 150%. Martyn has served APS and several of its divisions in numerous appointed and elected roles. As APS Southern Division vice president and president, he instituted a program to select senior graduate students with leadership potential to cochair contributed paper sessions at the division’s annual meeting, thereby fostering their leadership skills and involvement in APS. He was also instrumental in facilitating the interaction of plant pathologists with scientists from other agricultural disciplines. For instance, Martyn organized the first joint paper session on diseases of vegetable crops between the Southern Division of APS and the Southern Region of the American Society of Horticultural Sciences. Although these two organizations often met together, they had never held a joint session. As councilor for the APS North Central Division, he worked with the APS Office of International Programs to help foster better global relationships with other plant pathology societies. This helped lay the groundwork for later formal collaborations between APS and the Chinese Society of Plant Pathology. During his tenure as APS vice president, president-elect, and president, Martyn had an especially significant impact on our society. He worked closely with the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America to develop a Memorandum of Understanding on the joint management of the Plant Management Network (PMN) and established a Joint Executive Committee to provide leadership and vision, and oversee management of PMN. As vice president, he worked with the International Seed Federation to pursue potential opportunities in formulating international standards for the nomenclature of specific seed pathogens and, as president, he initiated a review of our society’s governance structure in an effort to improve the governance of APS and make it more efficient, nimble, and strategic. Finally, as APS president, Martyn played an important role in the planning and execution of the highly successful 2008 centennial meeting of the society, a year in which a benchmark membership of more than 5,000 was achieved.