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Caribbean Division Student Travel Grant

The Caribbean Division travel fund was established through the generosity of Drs. Malcolm Shurtleff and Jose Amador and the Caribbean Division. Qualified student applications from the Caribbean Division will be given preference for this travel grant. The first student travel grant from this fund was presented at the 2000 APS Annual Meeting in New Orleans.


The APS Caribbean Division was established in 1960; it attracts members from the Southern United States and Latin America working on common problems of important economic significance to their respective countries. The origins of the Caribbean Division and the name of Frederik L. Wellman are intimately related. Dr. Wellman, whose first assignment as a new plant pathologist from the University of Wisconsin was as principal plant pathologist for the United Fruit Company at La Lima, Honduras, played an important role in the creation and organization of the Caribbean Division. At the first organizational meeting of plant pathologists in Central America in Guatemala City and Chocolá in January, 1949, scientists from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the United States, decided “for the purpose of organization and of indicating the fields of study to be presented at future meetings, it was decided to petition the Council of The American Phytopathological Society to allow us to form a Tropical American section of the Society to include all pathologist of tropical America.” Dr. Wellman volunteered to write up a set of objectives for such a section and to circulate it among pathologists in the area to gain support for a petition to present to APS Council.

It took efforts of several interested persons working in the American tropics to bring together plant pathologists engaged in the study of diseases of tropical crops under the aegis of the Caribbean Division. In July of 1959, Ben Waite wrote D. H. Raddler, at the time with the United Fruit Company, giving details of the efforts of several Central American plant pathologists toward the establishment of a section of The American Phytopathological Society for the Caribbean area. At the time, Dr. Wellman was chair of the Committee on International Cooperation, and upon receiving a copy of the letter, urged members of APS Council to approve the formation of the Caribbean Division of APS. APS Council created the Caribbean Division at their 52nd Annual Meeting, held in Madison, WI, in August 1960.

The first meeting of the Caribbean Division took place the following year, when the Caribbean Division met jointly with the American Horticulture Society in Miami, FL. Not surprisingly, after adopting a constitution, Dr. Wellman was elected the first president of the division. At this first meeting, he laid his vision of the division by saying “it will be made of the important core of the most active workers in plant pathology in the Caribbean and contigous (sic) areas. It is here where the challenge is. It is here where the future of our science is unfolding.”

At the same meeting, Dr. Wellman said: “What is it that is most needed in our science of plant pathology in the tropics? I believe it is communication between us at regular intervals. In the case of our exciting race to keep plants healthy and to keep people from starving, particular phases of the disease problem depend on teams of workers, though, in some cases a single mind has to do it all. Whatever develops, we, who are the scientific workers, must know about it. The quick, the cheapest, the most successful manner, in which the largest number get the most successful manner, in which is the largest number get the most value from research is through scientific meetings where contributions are heard and discussed. These meetings are of utmost importance to the practicing plant pathologist.” Modern electronic wizardly notwithstanding, the annual meetings of the Caribbean Division continue to fulfill this service to its members well.

Following the first meeting, members of the Caribbean Division have met regularly and in just about all countries in Central and South America and many in the Caribbean. Meetings have taken place in Colombia, Venezuela, Florida, Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, and the Island of San Andres (part of Colombia). The 2000 meeting took place in the Dominican Republic and the following year the meeting brought members to Cuba.

The Caribbean Division has continued to grow and serve plant pathologists from a large geographic area, which because of the interest on tropical plant pathology, also includes members from the islands of Hawaii and Guam. The success of the division is due in part to the many individuals who have volunteered to be officers of the division and the many additional members who have organized meetings to provide a forum for the presentation of research findings and to facilitate communication among the pathologists of the division.

One of the characteristics of the Caribbean Division is its internationality. By attending the meetings, members always enjoy the camaraderie and great hospitality of members of diverse cultures and customs. Many APS presidents who have attended the meetings of the Caribbean Division feel that its meetings are most lively, educational, enjoyable, and entertaining, affording members experiences to which otherwise they would not be exposed. Members of the division come from both academic and private sectors, and because it is open to all persons interested in plant pathology, the Caribbean Division meetings have helped local phytopathological societies develop and grow.

The presentation of the Frederik L. Wellman Award, created in 1995, is a highlight of the annual meeting. The creation of the Caribbean Division Travel Fund is intended to aid student attendance at APS Annual Meetings.