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Borlaug fête brings out old friends and fond memories

April 26, 2010

During the three day of ceremonies and celebration in Ciudad Obregón, northern Mexico, to commemorate the late Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, there was one special event that bore witness to the great man’s continued capacity to bring people together. In the “Dr. Ernesto Samayoa” auditorium on 24 March 2010, some 70 former friends and associates of Borlaug and of CIMMYT gathered for an entire afternoon to share personal reminiscences about work and other interactions with Borlaug.

Global wheat program director Hans Braun led off with a presentation on Borlaug’s life, on CIMMYT’s inception tracing back to Borlaug’s work, and on the center’s recent structure. After that, the microphone was passed around to anyone who wished to speak, giving rise to personal accounts of Borlaug’s intensity, his dedication to his work and to farmers, and his ability to inspire those around him to work as hard as he did.

“You couldn’t be around Norm without being involved. He was a great teacher and he was always there and available,” remembered Willie McCuistion, adding that Norm was so driven that he would keep everyone out in the field until dark every night.

All the participants had been associated with CIMMYT in some way during their careers, but subsequent professional pursuits had led most on diverging pathways. What brought them together on that afternoon was their affection and reverence for Borlaug. “The feeling was that of a reunion of old friends who need more reasons to see each other on a regular basis,” said CIMMYT intern Mary Attaway, who filmed the testimonials.

This was precisely the intention of former CIMMYT wheat scientist Art Klatt, who served as associate director of the CIMMYT wheat program in the 1980s and led much of the investigative work to locate old center and Borlaug associates for the Obregón gathering. “I hope to start a database or web page that would help these folks stay in touch,” said Klatt, who now works in Oklahoma State University’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

The three days of memorial events surrounding the gathering on 24 March included a “get reacquainted” welcome cocktail, several field tours, a special Obregón “carne asada” (barbecue), and culminated in the renaming of the Obregón experiment station in Borlaug’s honor and the unveiling by his daughter, Jeannie Borlaug Laube, of a Borlaug statue and monument (see CIMMYT Informa 1695). To view a video of the full remembrance event, visit: http://tiny.cc/c1zg1.

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