A Tribute to Noel Jackson, Turfgrass Pathologist (Dec. 25, 1931 – May 29, 2018)

June 4, 2018 in Articles

Noel Jackson, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at University of Rhode Island, passed away peacefully at home at age 86 with his loving family on Tuesday May 29th. He was the beloved husband of Valerie (Low) Jackson for 62 years. Born in Yorkshire, England, he was the son of the late Leonard Jackson and Jane (Stockill) Jackson. He grew up on a farm in a rural community and was the first in his family to attend college. He received his B.S and M.S. degrees in Agricultural Botany from King’s College (now University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne), and his Ph.D. in Agronomy from Durham University in northeastern England.

In 1958, Dr. Jackson began his career as a turfgrass pathologist at the Sports Turf Research Institute in Bingley, England. In 1965, he moved his family to the United States and joined the faculty at University of Rhode Island, where he taught plant pathology classes to hundreds of undergraduate students, advised graduate students, and conducted research for over 38 years. Dr. Jackson was internationally renowned for his expertise in diseases of cool-season turfgrasses and as an expert diagnostician. Research conducted by Dr. Jackson and his graduate students helped to better understand the causes of anthracnose, copper spot, dollar spot, red thread/pink patch, summer patch, take-all patch, and yellow tuft diseases. Over his long career, he wrote hundreds of research and extension papers, and coauthored ‘Fungal Diseases of Amenity Turf Grasses’ with Dr. Drew Smith, which has become a standard reference book for turfgrass pathologists. Dr. Jackson derived great satisfaction from interacting with turfgrass practitioners, and providing practical and effective disease control recommendations. He worked as a consultant to the PGA, conducted popular seminars for GCSAA, and in 1999 was honored with the USGA Green Section Award in recognition of his outstanding service to golf.

Dr. Jackson was a natural teacher, with tremendous passion and curiosity for learning. He inspired a generation of students to pursue careers in the turf industry and academia. He was well known for his booming voice, hearty laugh, broad Yorkshire accent and his keen, sometimes blunt, sense of humor. In his retirement he continued to consult and perform outreach work, happily receiving sorry-looking turf specimens at home for diagnosis.

Dr. Jackson relished the time he spent with family, friends, and colleagues. He will be greatly missed by all who were lucky enough to know him. Besides his wife, he leaves a son, David Jackson of North Providence; a daughter, Carrie Mason of Wakefield; two grandsons, Sam and Alexander Mason; and two sisters, Mary Pickering and Ann Ramsden, both of Yorkshire, England. He was predeceased by a brother, David Jackson.

Visiting hours are at the Avery-Storti Funeral Home, 88 Columbia Street, Wednesday June 6th from 4-7pm. A celebration of his life will take place at a later date. In lieu of flowers, and to inspire and encourage future turfgrass research, memorial donations may be made to: The Noel Jackson Turfgrass Pathology Endowment (E338) ℅ the URI Foundation, PO Box 1700, Kingston, RI.