Colleagues and friends established this award in honor of Dr. Eugene S. Saari for the contributions he made to the science of plant pathology through his research, teaching, and service.
Born in Minnesota, Saari received his Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from the University of Minnesota in 1966. After a brief stint as a research fellow at Michigan State University, he initiated his international career in 1967 as a Ford Foundation post-doctoral fellow working in India, where he first came into contact with CIMMYT. CIMMYT hired him in 1969, which marked the beginning of a long and fruitful association. Saari served in Asia (India, 1969–1973; Thailand, 1980–1984; and Nepal, 1994–1997) and the Middle East (Lebanon, 1973–1976; Egypt, 1976–1980; and Turkey, 1987–1990) at different times in his professional life. Between those assignments, he came back to CIMMYT headquarters in Mexico, where from 1990 to 1993 he headed the Wheat Program’s crop protection subprogram.
Although a pathologist by training, he also worked as a breeder during certain periods of his professional career. But perhaps his most important contributions came when he was serving as CIMMYT representative in the regions where he worked. His professional expertise, wide experience, and exceptional people skills made him particularly well suited to working in outreach. He was well respected by his colleagues for his tireless support, genuine concern, and deep commitment to bettering conditions in the developing world. His indefatigable optimism and good humor stood him in good stead when dealing with the complexities of life in outreach.
Saari was a member of a long list of professional associations, among them, The American Phytopathological Society, the Indian Phytopathological Society, the American Society of Agronomy, and the British Society of Plant Pathology. In 1994 he was made a Fellow of the Canadian Phytopathological Society.
For Saari, working at CIMMYT was never just a job—it was a calling. CIMMYT feels privileged to have been the organization to which he chose to render his dedicated service.