Dr. Mary L. Powelson, born on December 25, 1941, grew up in Pennsylvania. She obtained a B.S. degree in biology education at Bloomsburg State College in Pennsylvania in 1963, a M.S. degree in plant pathology from Michigan State University in 1965, and a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Oregon State University (OSU) in 1972. She served as a research associate at OSU until 1979, when she joined the faculty of the OSU Department of Botany and Plant Pathology as an assistant professor with principal responsibilities for teaching and research. She was promoted to associate professor in 1983 and attained the rank of professor in 1990.
Dr. Powelson is regarded as one of the top potato pathologists in the United States. Studies by Dr. Powelson and her colleagues have laid the groundwork for her current multistate leadership efforts in potato IPM initiatives. Dr. Powelson is also well known for earlier studies with soft rot Erwinia. In the last few years, as a resurgence of potato late blight has become of prime importance, Dr. Powelson has shifted emphasis into that area and taken national leadership in the development of alternative management practices for this important disease.
Dr. Powelson has co-authored over 80 papers, book chapters, and other scientific and popular articles on her research and, in 1994, was coeditor of a book entitled Advances in Potato Pest Biology and Management. The recognized excellence of Dr. Powelson’s research is evidenced by financial support of her laboratory and by numerous invitations to review papers and grant proposals and to present her work to scientific colleagues and agricultural producers.
Dr. Powelson is known as a dedicated and distinguished teacher within her department and across the OSU campus. She has taught introductory plant pathology and a course in plant disease management. She is known as an instructor who always takes the extra time and effort to work individually with her students. In 1994, Dr. Powelson led the revision of the core graduate curriculum in plant pathology. She was named to the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences’ Registry of Distinguished Teachers in 1994, received the Teachers Award of Merit from the National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture in 1995, and was listed in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers in 1996.
Dr. Powelson takes the service role of our profession very seriously. She has advised students, served on advisory committees, served on and chaired committees in her department, chaired several college-level awards committees and the Agricultural Science Faculty Senate Caucus, and currently serves her university on the Faculty Senate and the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. She takes seriously her role as senior faculty mentor and has been an active participant in the mentoring program of the Oregon State Association for Women in Science. She has been an invited participant in departmental review panels for other departments of plant pathology. Dr. Powelson has taken an active service role in the activities of several scientific societies. She has served on several committees of the Potato Association of America, served on the Editorial Board since 1990, and currently serves on the Executive Committee as a director. Dr. Powelson has played key roles in the activities of APS, serving on the APS Teaching, IPM, and Women in Plant Pathology committees, as senior editor of Phytopathology from 1989 to 1993, as APS Pacific Division councilor from 1989 to 1991, and as councilor-at-large from 1991 to 1994. She currently serves as APS representative to the American Institute for Biological Sciences and as a member of the Office of Public Affairs and Education.