The society grants this honor to a current APS member in recognition of distinguished contributions to plant pathology or to The American Phytopathological Society. Fellow recognition is based on significant contributions in one or more of the following areas: original research, teaching, administration, professional and public service, and/or extension and outreach.
Robert L. Wick grew up in East Granby, CT. He received his B.S. (1972) and M.S. (1977) degrees in natural resources from the University of Connecticut and his Ph.D. (1981) degree in plant pathology from Virginia Tech, where he studied histopathology of Japanese holly black root disease and interaction with endomycorrhizae. Following graduation, he joined the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology & Weed Science as an assistant professor. In 1984, Wick was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts and was appointed an associate professor in 1997 and professor in 2003.
Wick excelled in diagnostic plant pathology and nematology. At Virginia Tech he led the Diagnostic Laboratory and Extension Nematology Program from 1981 to 1984, when he relocated to the University of Massachusetts (UMass) to manage the diagnostic laboratory for the vegetable, floriculture, ornamentals, and turfgrass industries at the Waltham Suburban Experiment Station. In 1990, he relocated to the Plant Pathology Department at the UMass Amherst campus, where he resumed his diagnostic activities and took on a relatively heavy teaching appointment.
His diagnostic activities extended to active participation in extension education for the vegetable IPM, floriculture IPM, and turfgrass IPM programs at UMass. Wick developed many extension publications and contributed to the New England Vegetable Management Guide, the New England Greenhouse Floriculture Guide, and the Professional Turf IPM Guide. He has shared his expertise as a speaker in educational programs in all of the New England states, as well as New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, California, Missouri, Nevada, and internationally in Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Nepal.
Wick has also distinguished himself in the classroom, where he taught Introductory Plant Pathology to more than 1,800 students. Along with teaching Introductory Plant Pathology, Biological Control, Mycology, Nematology, and Forest Pathology, Wick excelled in developing courses and workshops in Diagnostic Plant Pathology for which he produced three editions of a diagnostic manual for use in Bangladesh. It was Wick’s diagnostic expertise and reputation that got him invited to Bangladesh in 1985 to consult on establishing the Plant Disease Clinic and to provide workshops on disease diagnostics. In 1999, Wick was recognized internationally for his diagnostic skills when, as a cooperating scientist for a USDA/Bangladesh IPM project, he was sponsored by USDA/FAS to begin a close collaboration with Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU). For 15 years in a row, Wick was invited to return to BAU to teach diagnostics to students. In 2005, Wick and colleagues obtained funding to establish the first dedicated Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab at BAU. In 2006, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholar Award to teach an intensive six-month course in Diagnostic Plant Pathology for the graduate program at BAU and then received another Fulbright Scholarship Award in 2014 to teach the course again.
In 2012, Wick participated in a Purdue University program to give Plant Disease Diagnostic Workshops in Kabul and Herat, Afghanistan. In 2016, he was a USAID/Winrock volunteer to help farmers combat clubroot of cabbage in Nepal. Wick’s devotion to advancing the science of diagnostics of plant diseases in underdeveloped countries is commendable.
Wick has been very active in The American Phytopathological Society. He rarely missed a meeting of the APS Northeastern Division (NED), where he chaired the Extension, Awards and Site Selection Committees and served as councilor, treasurer, vice president, and president. In 2019 he was presented with the NED Award of Merit for “outstanding commitment and contributions to plant pathology and the NED.” Wick served as chair of the APS Extension, Diagnostics, Step, and Ornamentals and Turfgrass Committees and was nominated for APS vice president in 2011. He served as a senior editor, APSnet Education Center, and senior editor of Plant Disease. Although Wick’s primary assignments have been diagnostic services and teaching, he has published 46 refereed publications, including 15 “new diseases,” for which he was first author of 8. A notable publication that he coauthored is the Compendium of Flowering Potted Plant Diseases published by APS PRESS. Wick has contributed 17 chapters to books and several entries for the Encyclopedia of Plant Pathology. He has shown specific interest in diseases of vegetables, ornamentals, and turfgrasses. In particular, over 35 years he has developed a unique expertise in nematodes that attack turfgrasses and receives soil samples for diagnosis from across the United States. He has contributed over 50 sets of trial results for Plant Disease Management Reports, Biological and Cultural Tests, and Fungicide and Nematicide Tests.
Wick’s outstanding contributions to advancing and extending the science of diagnostics, coupled with his extensive service to APS, make him highly worthy of recognition as an APS Fellow.