May 6, 2009

Long-standing faculty member and researcher Bob Houtz recently assumed leadership duties as chair of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture's Department of Horticulture.

Since coming to UK in 1985, Houtz established and continues to lead a nationally and internationally distinguished research program in biochemistry and physiology of photosynthesis. He has served in multiple leadership roles at the college, university and national level. He currently is the director of the undergraduate agricultural biotechnology program.

Houtz has many goals in mind and said the department is poised to achieve them, due in large part to former chair, Dewayne Ingram's, efforts.

"I want to see this department become nationally known," he said. "I believe we do have that opportunity. We have lots of great young faculty members and a great focus already in popular areas such as sustainability, viticulture and enology. I also see continuing opportunities in agricultural biotechnology. I think success is really going to be a combination of passion, vision and action on the part of our faculty members."

Houtz emphasized the department not only plays a part in research and education about sustainable horticulture crops, but also contributes important research in biofuels.

"We are going to focus on these things," he said. "But we are not going to neglect conventional production practices either."

After earning a bachelor's degree in horticulture from the University of Florida, Houtz went on to receive his master's and doctorate in horticulture from Michigan State University before coming to UK in 1985. He's taught undergraduate and graduate classes at UK, including most recently a graduate course in plant biochemistry and an undergraduate course in biotechnology.

"To lead this department, I'll lean on what I believe are my core competencies - developing myself and others, leading with integrity and values, fostering collaboration and managing change," Houtz said. "It's a challenging budget atmosphere right now, but I believe we can still be competitive and we can still do the things we want to do to make horticulture in Kentucky and elsewhere more innovative, sustainable and efficient for everyone."

Ingram served the department as chair for nearly two decades.

"During Ingram's term as chair, the department made very significant strides forward. Notably, he and the department have, with distinction, aggressively and successfully addressed the challenge of diversifying Kentucky's agricultural economy," said Scott Smith, dean of the College of Agriculture. "Equally important, Ingram leaves the chair's role with the department in a very strong position to continue to advance. We look forward to his future contributions as a distinguished extension faculty leader."

Smith added that as UK gets more complex, as expectations for achievement increase in all three of UK's mission areas, and as resource base constraints tighten, demands on department chairs greatly increase. 

"More than ever, strong departments require strong chairs," he said. "I am sincerely gratified that Bob and other outstanding faculty leaders continue to accept these roles."

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Writer: Aimee Nielson, 859-257-7707

UK College of Agriculture, through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth with teaching, research and extension to enhance the lives of Kentuckians.

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