A Great Friend of the Department Passes

December 15, 2017

By: R.J. Zeyen


Dr. Hayden, left and Dr. Zeyen right

Dr. Eugene B. Hayden Jr. (M.S., 1954; Ph.D., 1956) died on May 8th, 2017 in Venice, Florida. Gene was born on July 3, 1928 in Providence, Rhode Island and received his B.S. degree in Botany from Rhode Island University. He did his graduate work in Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota. He worked on stem rust disease of wheat under the direction of the iconic Professor Helen Hart.

Dr. Hayden had a long history involvement with the University of Minnesota’s Plant Pathology Department, and with cereal rust prevention on the Great Plains. Upon receiving his Ph.D., Gene joined the privately funded, Minneapolis based, Rust Prevention Board under the direction of another departmental paragon, Mr. Donald Fletcher (the Rust Prevention Board later became the Crop Quality Council - CQC ) Both Mr. Fletcher and Dr. Hayden were intimately involved with the department and with cereal rust control in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

As Fletcher’s assistant Dr. Hayden also worked closely with fellow Department alum, Dr. Norman Borlaug (B.S., 1937; M.S., 1941; Ph.D. 1942) in Mexico. Borlaug directed the wheat program in the Rockefeller Foundation’s ‘Mexican Project’. They, and many national and international collaborators, worked to stop the devastating wheat stem rust, race 15b epidemics that swept through Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Dr. Hayden, along with his CQC mentor Mr. Fletcher, helped present the needs of agriculture and of rust prevention to the United States Congress and to various state legislatures. At the University of Minnesota they helped arrange funding for the Christensen Laboratory Building (1966) and the USDA Cereal Rust Laboratory Building dedicated in 1970 (now the Cereal Disease Laboratory).

Later, upon Mr. Fletcher’s retirement, Dr. Hayden headed the CQC. In 1968 he left the CQC and joined The Cereal Institute based in Chicago. Dr. Hayden ended his working career with the Edward R. Jones Investment Company.

During his retirement Dr. Hayden lived in Florida but worked with the Department of Plant Pathology in tandem with Dr. Norman Borlaug. He initially worked with former Department Head, Dr. Francis Pfleger. Following Dr. Pfleger’s retirement, Dr. Hayden worked closely with Drs. Carol Ishimaru (Head of Plant Pathology (2004 – 2013) and Dr. Richard Zeyen.

In 2007 Gene donated funding for the Department’s three day Centennial Celebration. He and Norman Borlaug and their network of friends arranged for three guest speakers and helped the then Department Head, Professor Carol Ishimaru and Professor Richard Zeyen bring the elements of this important celebration together. The Department’s Centennial celebration activities are partially recorded in the 2007 Centennial Edition of the Aurora Sporealis.

In 2008 Dr. Hayden teamed up with Emeritus Professor Richard Zeyen and Professor and Head Carol Ishimaru along with Professor Brian Steffenson to help create what is now known as the Stakman-Borlaug Center for Sustainable Plant Health (SBC) in the department.

Dr. Hayden’s perspectives, energy, enthusiasm, philanthropy and advocacy on behalf the Department of Plant Pathology at Minnesota was and will always be greatly appreciated. He is truly missed.