2005 Honorary Degree
Ronald P. Cantrell
Ronald P. Cantrell has distinguished himself in agronomy, particularly in the area of plant breeding and genetics, devoting most of his career to improving the lives of less advantaged people worldwide by making their food supplies more secure.
He currently is living in Bastrop, Tex., having recently retired after seven years as the Director General of International Rice Research Institute, the leading rice institute in the world, in Los Banos, The Philippines. The staff of IRRI includes nearly one thousand scientific and support personnel and is known for its major contributions toward alleviating world hunger.
Born in Shamrock, Tex., and raised on a cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle, Cantrell received his bachelors degree in 1966 from Texas Tech University. He then came to Purdue to earn his masters degree in plant breeding in 1969 and his doctorate in plant genetics and breeding in 1970.
After working for four years as a corn breeder and station manager for Cargill Incorporated in Nebraska, Cantrell returned to West Lafayette as an associate professor and professor of agronomy from 1975 through 1982.
In his final year with Purdue, Cantrell was the chief-of-party with a farming system team in Burkina Faso, West Africa, where he conducted research on improved varieties, soil fertility and water conservation practices. That led to eight years of work in plant genetics research for The International Center for the Improvement of Maize and Wheat in Mexico City, Mexico, before returning to academia as head of the Agronomy Department at Iowa State University from 1990 to 1998. Cantrell also served as president of the Crop Science Society of America, an organization with about 4,000 members.
Among his many awards and honors, Cantrell has been recognized twice previously by Purdue, once as the Outstanding Teacher in Agriculture in 1981 and as a Distinguished Agricultural Alumnus in 2000.
He also was honored in 1994 with the American Society of Agronomys International Service Award and in 1998 was selected president of the Crop Science Society of America.