2022 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient: Dr. David Zlesak

January 25, 2022

The 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient is Dr. David Zlezak. 

Dr. Zlesak will be presenting at our annual Kermit Olson Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022. His lecture, “Fostering Connections- People, Plants, and Markets” will discuss the connections he has made over the years working with people and plants. 

Dr. Zlesak received his MS and Ph.D. from the Department of Horticultural Science in 2006 with a focus on plant breeding and molecular genetics. His Ph.D. dissertation on lilies (“Genetic Components of White Trumpet Lilies: Somaclonal Variation in Lilium longiflorum Thunb. ‘Nellie White’ and Inheritance of Non-obligate Vernalization for Stem Elongation and Flowering in L. formosanum Wallace”) was used by the floriculture industry to make research-based changes to commercial Easter lily bulb production. His MS focused on surveying wild potato species for resistance to a recent form of the pathogen that causes late blight disease and the reproductive biology of these species. 

After receiving his degree Dr. Zlesak joined the University of Minnesota in a different capacity, as an Assistant Extension Professor with UMN Extension. A few years later, he joined the University of Wisconsin, River Falls where he has been since. In 2017 he was selected by graduating seniors and recent alumni as the Distinguished UWRF Teacher of the year. In 2018, he was promoted to full professor. 

Now on a 100% teaching appointment, Dr. Zlesak is responsible for a wide range of lab-based classes including plant propagation, plant tissue culture, woody landscape plants, nursery management, and introduction to biotechnology. He still loves to do research (e.g. plant breeding, plant pathology, reproductive biology, etc.) and works collaboratively with colleagues at University of Minnesota and elsewhere.  

We are thrilled to award him the 2022 Department of Horticultural Science Distinguished Alumni Award. Please tune in on February 16th, to congratulate him. Visit the event page for the Zoom information and to register for the event