$355,000 Gift to Support Plant Breeding Technology at Colorado State

A Longmont resident who spent his career in plant genetics and crop improvement and production has given Colorado State University $355,000 for research using technology to ensure an ample and safe food supply for a growing world population.

The gift from Samuel Litzenberger, an alumnus of Colorado State, and his late wife Hazel West Litzenberger will support a graduate student fellowship program. The program is designed to further research into the use of molecular genetics and other new technologies to improve disease, insect and weed resistance of food crops.

"There are no more pressing issues facing our world today than the production of a safe and plentiful food supply," said Colorado State President Albert Yates. "Sam Litzenberger spent his career in this noble pursuit, and now, through this gift, will have a lasting impact on the field to which he dedicated his professional life."

Litzenberger, a pioneer in the field of plant breeding and genetics, was among the first researchers to establish an integrated, worldwide network of research, teaching and extension services as vital components in crop improvement and production. He worked overseas on three continents assisting developing nations with the "green revolution" that increased food crop output in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Litzenberger gift will primarily provide a permanent endowment of $300,000. The fellowship will reside in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences, whose faculty will select the master’s or doctoral student to conduct the research each year.

Of the remaining money, $15,000 will provide immediate funding for a fellowship for the 2000-01 academic year. The balance of $40,000 will go to the Samuel and Hazel Litzenberger Plant Breeding Fund, designed to fund undergraduate research internships, equipment for the molecular genetics laboratory and the development of recruiting materials for related, ongoing programs in plant biotechnology, genetics and breeding.

"A key to the application of new technologies through plant breeding is trained scientists," said James Quick, soil and crop sciences department head. "Dr. Litzenberger is keenly aware of this need through his long experience, and he recognized our ability to train students if funding was available."

Litzenberger grew up in a family farm environment on irrigated farms near Brighton and Longmont, earned an agronomy and vocational agricultural education degree from Colorado State in 1937 and in 1939 earned a master’s degree in agronomy from Montana State College at Bozeman, supported by an Agriculture Department fellowship in crop breeding.

Appointed agronomist and professor at Montana State and the Agricultural Experiment Station in Bozeman, Litzenberger taught and conducted research into the inheritance and improvement of small grain crops, weed control and pure seed production.

During this time he met Hazel Lucille West, an Oklahoma native who grew up on a farm, and they married in 1941. She received an associate’s degree from Northern Oklahoma College and worked on the Bozeman campus.

After earning a doctorate in plant pathology and crop breeding in 1948 at Iowa State University, Litzenberger became a cereal agronomist with the University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station at Gainesville. In 1950 Litzenberger was named agronomist to the Territory of Alaska, where he spent two years working and reviewed the Agriculture Department’s entire world collection of wheat, barley and oats to find the best-adapted crops for settlers in the now-famed Matanuska Valley.

By 1951 the Litzenbergers began a 25-year-sojourn that led to Nicaragua, Cambodia, Vietnam, Guinea and Tunisia. They adopted a team approach, he working to assist cooperating countries to help develop self-sufficiency in food and fiber crop production while she served as protocol hostess, secretary and businesswoman. His final assignment was as chief of the crops production division for the Agency for International Development. He retired in 1975 and the couple returned to Longmont.

The author or co-author of more than 70 articles on agronomy, Litzenberger was named a fellow of the American Society for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America and the American Horticultural Society.

For information on contributions to the Samuel and Hazel Litzenberger Fellowship in Plant Breeding, contact Julie Karbula in the Colorado State University College of Agricultural Sciences at (970) 491-7686. Please also contact her for a copy of "The Family Story of Adam Litzenberger and Marie Elizabeth Gorr and Their Descendants and Ancestors," in which more information on the Litzenbergers is available.