Colleagues and friends established this award in honor of Dr. Arthur Kelman for the contributions he made to the science of plant pathology through his research, teaching, and service.
Arthur Kelman was born in 1918 in Providence, RI. Although he had originally planned to become a chemist when he entered the University of Rhode Island in 1937, he soon became interested in botany because of the influence of an outstanding instructor, Vernon I. Cheadle. His interest then focused on plant pathology as a result of contacts with Frank L. Howard, whose infectious enthusiasm influenced young Kelman to study plant pathology at North Carolina State University (NCSU) at Raleigh. World War II interrupted his career, and he served for three years as a member of the Signal Intelligence Unit in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. He received a field commission as a second lieutenant in Italy. He returned to graduate school at NCSU in 1946, and except for an extramural semester at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (UWM), he remained there to complete his Ph.D. degree and to accept a position as assistant professor of plant pathology in 1949.
His Ph.D. work marked the beginning of a life-long interest in bacterial diseases of plants and specifically on the causal agent of Granville wilt of tobacco, Ralstonia solanacearum. His research had a far-reaching impact because of the worldwide importance of the diseases caused by this bacterium. Studies with R. solanacearum had been hampered for decades by rapid loss of pathogenicity in culture. Dr. Kelman developed a simple medium for storing and recognizing pathogenic colonies in culture. These findings permitted the identification and study of factors that govern pathogenicity and greatly accelerated the development of disease-resistant varieties of tobacco, tomato, potato, banana, and other important crops.
In the early 1960s, he developed a program of graduate education and research in forest pathology at NCSU. He and the students that he attracted to this program studied major diseases of Southern pines. In addition to his achievements in research, his skills as an educator and his charismatic influence on students were recognized early in his career. He received the award of Outstanding Instructor in the School of Agriculture in 1956. In 1961, he received a Distinguished Teacher Award, and in the same year, the university recognized the value of his contributions when he was named the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology.
Yet another aspect of Dr. Kelman’s versatility became apparent when he moved to UWM to assume the chair of the Department of Plant Pathology in 1965, where he became an efficient and widely respected administrator. As a member of the influential University Committee, he was involved in the policy-making process on many difficult issues on campus. Despite an extremely demanding schedule, he taught the basic undergraduate course in plant pathology for many years, and in 1987, received the Amoco Excellence in Teaching Award and the Spitzer Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, at UWM. He maintained his interest in phytobacteriology and turned his attention to the ecology and physiology of the soft-rotting erwinias. As a result of studies that he and his students carried out on environmental factors and calcium nutrition, effective measures were implemented to reduce postharvest losses. In 1975, he was named L. R. Jones Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology and later served as the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Senior Research Professor (1985–1989) in recognition of his distinguished record of service to the university and the profession. He received the E. C. Stakman Award, University of Minnesota (1987); the Researcher of the Year Award, Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Industry (1988); the North American Seed Potato Researcher of the Year Award (1988); and the University Distinguished Scholar, Department of Plant Pathology, NCSU (1989).
Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Dr. Kelman’s career is his outstanding record of service to professional societies, international agriculture, and to the National Academy of Sciences, which elected him to membership in 1973. He served APS on numerous committees and as councilor-at-large, vice president, and president (1967). Dr. Kelman helped negotiate the joint partnership with the American Association of Cereal Chemists (now known as AACC Intl.). He was a major force in the development of the International Society for Plant Pathology, and he served as its vice president (1968–1973) and president (1973–1978). He has been a consultant in international agriculture for the United Fruit Company, the Ford Foundation, and the World Bank; he was a member of the panel that reviewed the International Rice Research Institute in 1975. He also served as chair of the Division of Biological Sciences and as a member of the commission on Life Sciences of the National Research Council and chair of the Section of Applied Biology and Agricultural Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Kelman served as Chief Scientist, National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program, USDA from 1991 to 1993. He was made a Fellow of APS in 1969, was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1977, and received an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1977. As an NSF Senior Postdoctoral Fellow he was a visiting professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Cambridge University, England (1971–1972). In 1997, he was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. In 1999, he received an Outstanding Alumnus Award from the Department of Plant Pathology at NCSU and a similar award from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, NCSU, in 2000. Dr. Kelman remained active as a University Distinguished Scholar in the Department of Plant Pathology at NCSU until he passed away on June 29, 2009.