Colleagues and friends established this award in honor and memory of Dr. Janell Marie (Stevens) Johnk for the contributions that she made to the science of plant pathology through her research, teaching, and service.
Janell Marie Stevens Johnk was born on October 30, 1962, in Montevideo, MN, the daughter of Ronald and Joyce (Bosch) Stevens. She graduated from Montevideo Senior High school in 1981, and earned a B.A. degree in biology and chemistry, with honors, from Hamline University in St. Paul in 1985. Her rural upbringing on a farm and her love of agriculture inspired her to pursue further education in plant pathology at the University of Minnesota. She received her M.S. degree from that institution in 1991 and her Ph.D. degree in 1993. Dr. Johnk assumed the title rank of extension plant pathologist and assistant professor for Texas A&M University at the TAMU Research and Extension Center in Dallas, TX. She died in an automobile accident on the way to a wheat field day in Prosper, TX, on May 6, 1998.
In her position in Dallas, Dr. Johnk applied her limitless energy and enthusiasm to establish statewide responsibilities and regional leadership for extension programs on diseases of turfgrass, shade trees, and retail and landscape ornamentals. She also developed regional programs on diseases of cotton, sorghum, peanuts, and small grains during the short time she was at TAMU. As the first urban plant pathologist in the state, Dr. Johnk forged a variety of cooperative relationships with golf course superintendents, municipal foresters, garden clubs, arborists, and influential clientele in the Dallas area. In a very short time Dr. Johnk became widely known as a leader and original thinker. She and her colleagues in Dallas developed an IPM demonstration garden and a kiosk containing a computer that provides answers to questions concerning garden problems. This kiosk has subsequently been dedicated to her memory. Her impact on clientele and colleagues went far beyond what is normal for such a young scientist. She was asked to be a speaker at the Plenary Session of the 1994 APS Annual Meeting in Albuquerque and she was an APS representative to the Council of Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). She was selected by CAST to participate in the W. K. Kellogg Foundation-funded “Conversation on Change,” a program to explore change in agriculture-related professional societies.
As a legacy in plant pathology, Dr. Johnk has left a brief but substantive record of her research and experiences on the behavior of plant diseases. For her thesis and dissertation research, she studied the use of fatty acid analysis for differentiating populations of Rhizoctonia solani. The results of this work were published in Phytopathology. Her responsibilities in the highly urbanized Dallas region led her to publish on nematode problems of turfgrassess (Journal of Applied Nemotology) and the testing of fungicides for control of black spot in rose (Fungicide and Nematicide Reports). She was very active on a team of scientists at the Dallas center working on integrated pest management on urban plant problems and subsequently wrote numerous book chapters and extension publications on that topic. Additional extension publications included fact sheets and bulletins on oak wilt, brown patch, take-all patch, Entomosporium leaf spot, and a variety of publications on plant disease development and control.
Dr. Johnk was extremely active in the affairs of APS as a member of a variety of ad hoc and standing committees. She serves as an outstanding role model for those young women who choose to follow a career path as well as become a parent by excelling in both roles. Her selfless drive to help people solve problems, her intense commitment to our discipline, her wonderful sense of humor, and her dedication to her family will forever inspire all who had the good fortune to have worked with her. Her husband Michael and daughter Kayla live in Murphy, TX.