Steven Allen Slack was born on May 6, 1947, in Logan, UT, one of two children of Derald and Betty Slack. In 1953, the family moved to Fayetteville, AR, where he attended the public schools and the University of Arkansas. His interest in plant pathology developed early and naturally, because his father was a plant pathologist. Dr. Slack majored in this subject throughout his university training. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Arkansas in 1969 and 1971, respectively. He continued in plant virology at the University of California-Davis, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1974. He remained there an additional year as a postdoctoral project associate. In 1975, Dr. Slack joined the faculty of the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he progressed to the rank of associate professor in 1979 and professor in 1985. He directed Wisconsin’s Seed Potato Certification Program and supervised its Elite Foundation Seed Potato Farm, while at the same time coordinating the teaching of the department’s introductory plant pathology course. He also participated in the work of numerous departmental, college, and university boards and committees. The main emphasis of his research during his years in Wisconsin was on improved procedures for pathogen detection in potato plants and tubers and on in vitro propagation for production of pathogen-free plants.
In 1988, Dr. Slack was recruited by Cornell University to lead its program in seed potato pathology and certification and to direct the Cornell Uihlein Potato Foundation Seed Farm, which is the source of vigorous stocks of pathogen-free certified seed tubers of potato cultivars grown in New York. As the Henry & Mildred Uihlein Professor of Plant Pathology at Cornell in Ithaca, he continued research on epidemiology and management of bacterial ring rot, pathogen detection and assay in potatoes, potato tissue culture technology, and incorporation of virus resistance into potatoes. Dr. Slack has authored or co-authored in excess of 75 extension and popular publications, as well as over 80 refereed publications and book chapters.
Dr. Slack has been a major contributor to the work of the Potato Association of America, leading its certification and pathology sections before joining its executive board and then progressing through the chain of elective offices. He served on the Editorial Board of the American Potato Journal from 1981 to 1997 and was president of the association in 1989.
Dr. Slack has also been active in APS affairs, chairing the Monographs and Reviews Committee, serving on the editorial boards of Plant Disease, Phytopathology, and APS Press, and serving as editor-in-chief of APS Press during 1991 to 1994. In 1994 to 1996, he progressed through the officer chain of the APS Northeastern Division.
Dr. Slack has often been recruited as a speaker at national and international meetings. He has also served as a program reviewer at several state, national, and international agricultural research stations. Dr. Slack was named outstanding alumnus of the College of Agriculture, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, in 1996. He and other members of a USDA-Cornell research team received the 1995 USDA Honor Award for their contributions to control the golden nematode with nonpesticidal measures. He is currently the Henry & Mildred Uihlein Professor and chair of Cornell’s Department of Plant Pathology at Ithaca, a position to which he was appointed in 1995.