The Elsie J. and Robert Aycock Student Travel Fund was established by Dr. Aycock to honor his wife. The first travel award was given at the 2005 APS Annual Meeting in Austin, TX.
Elsie Aycock was born in Willard, NC, on May 19, 1920. She died after a long illness on February 15, 2003. Both of her parents were direct descendants of pre-Revolution settlers of Duplin County. She graduated from high school in Wallace, NC, and attended East Carolina University and Miss Hardbarger’s Secretarial School in Raleigh, NC. Her first employment was with the North Carolina General Assembly.
She married Robert Aycock, then a graduate student at North Carolina State College, in 1941. During the years of World War II, she was able to follow him to several locations where he was stationed. For a while, she worked for American Airlines at La Guardia Field, NY, and enjoyed seeing the great Clipper ships land in Flushing Bay. One of her supervisors was busily engaged in planning a new and grand post-war airport to be called Idlewild, later JFK. She later worked for Marine Transport Lines at 11 Broadway and often told of seeing the Queen ships leave New York harbor laden with troops bound for Europe. She also was employed at the laboratory of Lovell General Hospital, Fort Devens, MA, where her husband was a laboratory technician. After the war, she supported her husband, who was completing a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology at North Carolina State University (NCSU), by working at various secretarial jobs.
She was always a great friend of graduate students and had them frequently in her home and often supplied them with food and treats for travel to meetings. Her interest and participation in departmental receptions at the annual meetings helped provide a favorable impression for recruiting students and faculty. When her husband was president of APS she initiated, hosted, and funded the first Past President’s Luncheon, which has become a long-standing tradition of the society. Elsie was noted for her warm personality, sense of humor, great culinary skill, and the kindness and hospitality she tendered both faculty and students.
Robert Aycock was born on December 23, 1919, in Lisbon, LA. Robert passed away on December 3, 2009. He graduated from Louisiana State University in 1940 and continued his education at North Carolina State College in Raleigh. His M.S. program there was guided by Samuel G. Lehman. During the World War II years, he served in the Army Medical Corps, first in a detachment servicing a regiment of Coast Guard Artillery and later as a laboratory technician at Lovell General Hospital, Fort Devens, MA.
Robert returned to NCSU in 1947 and undertook a Ph.D. program under the guidance of Carlyle Clayton. After graduation in 1949, his first employment was at Edisto Experiment Station, a branch of Clemson College, at Blackville, SC. He returned to North Carolina in 1955 as a plant pathologist at the Horticultural Crops Research Station at Castle Hayne, where he conducted research on diseases of field-grown ornamental bulb crops.
Funds became available in 1963 for a part-time extension position on the Raleigh campus, and Robert returned to assume major responsibility for the Plant Disease Clinic, while continuing research on diseases of ornamentals. During his professional career, he served as head of the Department of Plant Pathology at NCSU (1973–1984), editor-in-chief of Phytopathology (1969–1972), and APS President (1976). He was named an APS Fellow in 1979 and was named Outstanding Plant Pathologist by the APS Southern Division in 1984.