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Lucy Hastings de Gutiérrez Fund

Family and friends established this fund for the APS Excellence in Teaching Award in honor and memory of Lucy Hastings de Gutiérrez for the contributions that she made to the science of plant pathology. 

Lucy Hastings de
Gutiérrez and husband
Mario Gutiérrez

In November 1999, the Lucy Hastings de Gutiérrez Fund was established by her family and friends in honor and memory of Lucy. The earnings will provide a cash prize to accompany the Excellence in Teaching Award. The teaching award was established by APS Council in 1987 to recognize excellence in teaching plant pathology. The award is presented to individuals with active responsibility for one or more courses in plant pathology and recognizes the individual’s distinguished proficiency in teaching as indicated by development and effectiveness of courses taught. The recipient of this award is selected by the APS Awards and Honors Committee.

Lucy Hastings de Gutiérrez was born on March 13, 1917, in Concord, NH, the daughter of Alfred B. Hastings and Helen Fellows. Her early youth was spent in New Hampshire, Virginia, and Maryland. Her father was a forester with USDA, and from him she inherited a great love for trees and plants. When she was 11 years old, she developed health problems that led to surgery and then complications from it. Her recovery from the operation was slow and she had to spend a year out of school. She used this time to read profusely and developed a self discipline for reading and self study that persisted for the rest of her life.

She graduated from Central High School in Washington, DC, in 1935 and entered Smith College, her mother’s alma mater, where she majored in economic botany, graduating in 1939. While at Smith, she was a member of the Biological Society, the Glee Club, and the 1939 Choir. After graduation, she worked in the Du Pont Plant Pathology Laboratory in Wilmington, DE, mostly on seed protectants. This early experience served to orient her toward plant pathology as the field of her future professional activities. She left Du Pont in April 1945 to join the WACS to help in the Second World War effort. After basic training, she was stationed in Fort Sam Houston, TX, and assigned to the neuropsychiatric department of Brooke Army Medical Center, working as an engineer’s aide in electroencephalography.

In 1947, she joined the staff of the Inter-American Institute of Agricultural Sciences (IAIAS), Turrualba, Costa Rica, to satisfy a long-time ambition of seeing the tropics. She did not realize at the time that the rest of her life would be spent in a tropical area. At first, she worked on seedborne pathogens and developed seed treatments that resulted in better germination and field stands of cereal crops, then on coffee and rice pathogens. She spent long hours in the laboratory and in the library studying about plant pathogens in general and especially those she was working with. She made rice her main line of work and evaluated the USDA world rice collection for disease reaction to the major pathogens of this crop. She also tested the agronomic performance of the most promising entries in the world rice collection in tests carried on at two different locations. This very promising line of work came to an abrupt end through the myopia of the then administrator of the Turrialba Center of IAIAS.

She resigned from her job and became a housewife and companion of her husband, whome she married in December 1952, accompanying him in successive posts in Mexico, Guatemala, Mexico, and Brazil. They did not have any children. In 1980, both she and her husband retired to Costa Rica and established their home in a small farm northwest of the city of Heredia, where they grew coffee and enjoyed their many hobbies: reading, listening to music, gardening, birdwatching, etc.

After retirement, Lucy was afflicted by macular degeneration but she kept her interest in reading through the Talking Book Service of the U.S. Library of Congress and the use of Xerox Edge Reader. For many years, she was a member of APS and also of the APS Caribbean Division. She died an emeritus member of APS.

In May 1999, Lucy suffered a stroke while in Baltimore, MD, for general medical evaluation at Johns Hopkins Hospital. After 18 days in the intensive care unit, she passed away on June 11, 1999. Her body was deposited in a facility adjoining the Templo Votivo al Corazòn de Jesfás in the eastern portion of San José, the capital city of Costa Rica. Lucy was an active, optimistic, unselfish, generous, artistic, and gifted person; she had all kinds of interests, ingenuity, and a kind heart. Lucy made friends easily and was always ready to lend a hand to whomever needed it; she also had a fine sense of humor. She is survived by her husband of 46 years, Mario G. Gutiérrez, her brother Dwight F. Hastings and his wife Jean of Waynesboro, PA, and four nephews and two nieces. She is greatly missed by relatives and friends and they have established this cash prize in her honor and memory.

A post-script to Lucy’s biography is that Luis Sequeira knew Lucy very well from the time he was a graduate student doing a part of his thesis work at Turrialba, where Lucy was a plant pathologist and assistant to Freddie Wellman. Luis followed Lucy’s husband Mario’s career with CIMMYT and other tropical centers with great interest and attributes to Mario and Lucy very substantial contributions to agriculture sciences in Latin America.