Testimonials for Pioneer Member Robert Cleland

Bert de Boer – It is a great pleasure to share my experience of the time I worked with Prof. Cleland, Bob for those who know him well. Coming from the Netherlands in September 1985, I started as a postdoc in his group, and I stayed for almost three years. Those years were decisive for my scientific career. First of all from the human perspective, every day was a pleasure to work in Bob’s lab; he created a pleasant atmosphere that stimulated us to do science. As for the science itself, on one hand we were free to make our own plans and decisions, whereas on the other hand Bob loved to discuss our progress with an open mind to advances our projects. It was very stimulating. Moreover, Bob was an excellent teacher, and he knew how to get his students interested in the beauty of plant physiology. For me, the best illustration of this was the hours that students could come into the lab to ask questions after his lectures. Then, his office would be cramped with students and very often they would sit in the lab so as not to miss anything of what was discussed. This is only a small window to give insight into the impressive career of Prof. Cleland; I have no doubt he deserves to be recognized as a Pioneer of ASPB

Charles Cleland – Robert ‘Bob’ Cleland has been a real inspiration to many plant physiologists during his long career. Both teaching and research have been important aspects of his work. He established many collaborations with scientists overseas.

Thomas Cleland – My time in the lab was brief, but I remember stretching coleoptiles, doing some work on the CP/M computer, and washing the occasional dish as a teenager. In earlier years, back in Johnson Hall, I primarily worked as a tape recorder operator and darkroom patron, developed elevator alignment skills, and was the author of the potato print that decorated one of the pencil stands. It is fair to say that Bob Cleland’s impact on my life could not have been much greater.

Daniel Cosgrove – Bob was an inspiration to me when I was a postdoc in his lab in the early 1980s. He was always ready to discuss science, plan experiments, challenge dogma, all with good humor and enthusiasm. I send my best wishes on your 90th birthday.

Verónica S. Di Stilio – Bob is a colleague in the Department of Biology, and he has always been very participative in seminars and other departmental events, I always enjoyed his pointed questions. He remains very smart and clear-headed, even in his older age.

Mary (Bette) Nicotri – I worked with Bob for many years, and he was a wonderful, supportive mentor and boss. He gave me the opportunity to grow and do new things and always tried to ensure that we offered the best possible experience for students, faculty and staff. His enthusiasm, concern for others, and love of plants and biology in general was always evident and much appreciated. Hats off to Bob!

Lincoln Taiz – Bob is one of my all-time favorite plant biologists and a personal hero whose larger-than-life personality, charisma, originality, brilliance, conviviality, and warm, welcoming treatment of students and young professionals I greatly admire and appreciate! His “acid-growth hypothesis” for auxin-induced cell elongation was, and has remained, a dominant paradigm in the auxin field to the present day. For several decades it created a veritable industry of research in the plant growth field and launched careers among his many junior colleagues. I always looked forward to my interactions with him at scientific meetings, because of his astute mind and wonderful sense of humor. Perennially young at heart, he attracted younger colleagues in droves and became the center of any gathering. Happy Birthday, Bob! And congratulations on your richly deserved Pioneer status!

William Thompson – Bob was my PhD advisor during the late ’60s. I don’t think I could have had a better one. It was Bob who first steered me in the direction of plant molecular biology, giving me a career boost as one of a small handful of the first practitioners in that field. However, he did far more than that, just by being the open and engaging person he is. For example, I cherish the memories of Bob popping into the lab in mid-afternoon and saying “How about some coffee.” We would then walk across campus to the student union and have all sorts of interesting discussions – mostly, but not always, focused on science. Sometimes these included other students or faculty, or visitors from other universities. I particularly remember one in which Gene Nester came to discuss ways in which microbiologists might make contributions to plant biology. Bob and I (mainly Bob; my contribution was mostly youthful enthusiasm) encouraged him to investigate Agrobacterium. Those were good years!

Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh – Bob Cleland is a curious scientist, infectiously drawing all those around him into the fun of discovery. He asks questions, points out puzzles and oddities, shares information and understandings, and encourages others to do the same. I was drawn to Bob’s lab when he and Dave Rayle were publishing the first papers on ‘acid growth.’ They made a complex phenomenon so simple, even I could understand and teach it to others. Early on, when I realized they had not tested the idea in leaves, I did, found it explained much of how leaves grow, and I was off! On my own, but always adjacent to Bob and his wife, Molly, I can say I’m immensely grateful to all they have shown me about how to think creatively and live life in a gracious, full way with plenty of humor.

Eileen O’Connor – Bob was a terrific teacher – he was able to make botany interesting and relevant to many pre-med students who didn’t think they needed to know anything about plants!

John Palka – Bob was a superb colleague for me. He is a botanist and I am a neurophysiologist, but we communicated extremely well. I sure learned a lot from him!