Alumni Award

The Alumni Award for the Department of Horticultural Science recognizes achievement in the many and varied forms. Nominees are chosen based on a variety of factors; for some alumni, the award may recognize achievements in research and scholarship, whether in academic of non-academic settings. For other alumni, the award may recognize achievements and/or leadership in their chosen professions, as well as notable service in the area of horticultural science. This award is open to all alumni at any stage in their career. We hope to capture the diversity of achievements by those educated in our department with this award.


  1. Candidates must have received at least one of the following degrees from the Department of Horticultural Science:
    • Baccalaureate degree with a major in Horticulture, Environmental Horticulture, Animal & Plant Systems, Science in Agriculture, Food Systems, or Plant Science.
    • Master of Agriculture
    • Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture
    • Graduate degree advised by a faculty member of Horticultural Science
    • Current staff or faculty in the Department of Horticultural Science, or sitting Regents, are not eligible for this award.
  2. Record of public speaking on broader topics of interest to the horticultural community.
  3. Achievements in research and scholarship.
  4. Leadership in their chosen professions.
  5. Notable service in the area of horticultural science.

Award Criteria

Nominees must minimally meet the eligibility criteria. Anyone may nominate an individual for this award; individuals are welcome to self-nominate. Recipients of the award are recognized at the annual Kermit Olson Memorial Lecture.


Please use this form to submit nominee name and contact information. Nominations are due by noon on Friday, December 15th, 2023. Once the application window closes, nominees will be contacted for their CV and a brief (500 word) biography. The committee will make a decision by mid January. Contact Alicia McCann at [email protected] with any questions.

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Previous Alumni Award Recipients

  • 2023 Phil Forsline, Horticulturist and Retired Fruit Crops Curator
  • 2022 David Zlesak, Professor of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin - River Falls
  • 2021 Lurline Marsh, Professor, University of Maryland - Eastern Shore 
  • 2020 John M. Dole,  Associate Dean for Academic Programs, North Carolina State University
  • 2019 Phil S. Allen, Professor, Brigham Young University
  • 2018 Eric Lee-Mäder, Pollinator Conservation Co-Director, The Xerces Society
  • 2017 Royal Heins, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University

Kermit Olson Memorial Lecture History

The Kermit A. Olson Memorial Lecture was established at the University of Minnesota in 1970, through an endowment from the estate of Kermit A. Olson. The purpose of the fund is to provide an annual lecture by an outstanding horticulturist or landscape architect. Since 2017, we have combined the lecture with the award of the Distinguished Alumni Award, the recipient of the award is that year's lecturer.

Kermit A. Olson was a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a major in horticultural science. Following graduation, he became superintendent of the Soil Conservation Service Nursery at Winona. After four years of military service during World War II—in the South Pacific with the 303rd Air Force—he served as the landscape consultant for the Veteran’s Administration, and the manager of the Grandview Seed Store in Edina, the Farm Store in Excelsior, and the Danish Seed Store in Minneapolis. At the time of his death, he was head horticulturist at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Minneapolis.

Previous Kermit Olson Memorial Lecturers

  • 1972 Graham William Ashworth, Architect and Civic Planner, Manchester, England
  • 1973 A. G. L. Hellyer, Writer and Lecturer, Sussex, England
  • 1974 Ronald Taven, Department of Horticulture, University of Missouri
  • 1975 John Creech, Director, National Arboretum, Washington, D.C.
  • 1976 John Voight, Director, Boerner Botanical Garden, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • 1977 Frederick Belden, Landscape Architect, Colonial Williamsburg
  • 1978 William R. Nelson, Jr., Deptartment of Horticulture and Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois
  • 1979 Abraham Halevy, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel
  • 1980 Darrel G. Morrison, Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Wisconsin
  • 1981 Merle H. Jensen, Department of Plant Science, University of Arizona
  • 1982 James W. Wilson, Executive Secretary, All-American Selections National Garden Bureau, Inc., Sycamore, Illinois
  • 1983 Wesley P. Hackett, Department of Horticultural Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Minnesota
  • 1984 James F. Tammen, President, Oglevee Associates, Inc., Connelseville, Pennsylvania
  • 1985 A. Carl Leopold, Boyce Thompson Institute, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
  • 1986 J.L. Ozbun, Dean, Washington State University, College of Agriculture and Home Economics
  • 1987 Elmer L. Anderson, Minnesota Governor, Newspaper Publisher, Collector of Rare Botanical Books
  • 1988 Robert L. Thayer, Jr., Professor of Landscape Architecture, University of California, Davis
  • 1989 Robert E. Lyons, Professor of Horticulture, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • 1990 Richard H. Mattson, Professor of Horticulture, Kansas State University
  • 1991 Ralph Scorza, Research Leader, USDA/ARS, Kearneysville, West Virginia
  • 1992 Calvin R. Sperling, Plant Exploration Officer, USDA/ARS, Beltsville, Maryland
  • 1993 Peter H. Raven, Director of Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1994 Patricia G. Gensel, Paleobotanist, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 1995 David Pimentel, Insect Ecology & Agricultural Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
  • 1996 Harold B. Turkey, Jr., Hill Visiting Professor, Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota, Urban Horticulture, University of Seattle
  • 1997 Martin J. Bukovac, Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University, East Lansing
  • 1998 Irwin Goldman, Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • 1999 Jerald Schnoor, Miller Distinguished Professor, University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • 2000 Jeffrey Kahn, Director, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota
  • 2001 Paul Alan Cox, Director, National Tropical Botanical Garden
  • 2002 Roger S. Ulrich, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Architecture, Texas A&M
  • 2003 Richard J. Campbell, Senior Curator, Tropical Fruit Program, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Coral Gables, Florida
  • 2004 Paul W. Bosland, Regents Professor, Agronomy and Horticulture Department, New Mexico State University
  • 2005 Jules Janick, James Troop Distinguished Professor, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University
  • 2006 Raymond M. Wheeler, Plant Physiologist, NASA Biological Sciences Office, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
  • 2007 Tomasz Anisko, Plant Curator, Longwood Gardens, Kennet Square, Pennsylvania
  • 2008 Richard Primack, Professor of Biology, Boston University
  • 2009 Amy Stewart, Bestselling Author and Gardener
  • 2010 Roger Hangarter, Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Indiana University
  • 2011 Marla Spivak, Professor of Entomology, University of Minnesota
  • 2012 David Granatstein, Sustainable Agriculture Specialist, Washington State University
  • 2013 Jodie Holt, Plant Physiologist, University of California, Riverside
  • 2014 Todd Fosgren, Photographer
  • 2015 James Veteto, Assistant Professor of Anthropology & Sociology, Western Carolina University
  • 2016 James E. Simon, Professor, Rutgers University