A Retirement Message from Todd Burnes

May 26, 2020


Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I was completing a degree in Forest Resources and one class requirement was Bob Blanchette’s Forestry Pathology course.  At that time Plant Pathology lab classes were held in Stakman Hall now occupied by the Plant Disease Clinic.  I enjoyed Bob’s enthusiasm and learning about the different tree diseases and the microorganisms that caused those diseases.  At that time, Bob was hiring students to help in his research lab and I was lucky to get one of those positions.   I was privileged to be able to work with mentor Bob Blanchette, many graduate students including at that time a Ph.D. student Mike Wingfield and research civil service staff.  In 1983 I started working full time as a lab technician.  I worked on research including the pinewood nematode, wood decay, bacteria, Dutch elm disease, oak wilt, blue stain fungi, tree rusts plus many other side projects.  I was able to learn important scientific methods, how to think creatively, and developed many valuable lab skills that I would later use in the teaching position.  

In 2000 I was offered the lab teaching position within the department to assist in coordinating lab courses as well as continuing to do research on white pine blister rust.  Initially I worked with Dr. David MacDonald on the “Introduction to Plant Pathology” course that had two different labs a week and “A Plants Get Sick Too” course that was offered on Thursday evenings.  I helped in the mycology course, which also had two different labs a week.  In my career I have worked on various teaching labs including a plant pathology lab for agronomy majors, Principles of Plant Pathology, Introduction to Plant Pathology, Turf Pathology, Bacteriology, Nematology and Field Plant Pathology.  I also helped in plant pathology courses in Marshall and Crookston.  All these courses with laboratories are possible because of a community effort among the faculty instructors, the insight and material from other civil service research and office staff, greenhouse staff, department heads, and the plant pathology graduate students who do the lab instructing, grading and working with the students in class.   

It has been a great career made possible by my friends in the department of plant pathology.  The best memory I have is the accumulation of experiences working with staff, faculty, and especially the graduate and undergraduate students over my career.  What am I going to do in retirement?  I enjoy many different activities and hobbies and will be doing more of those.  I will also look forward to spending more time with my wife, our kids, family, and friends. I know the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota has a bright future because of its great people.  

Farewell and best wishes. 

Todd Burnes.