Albert “Al” Ellingboe, Professor Emeritus, dies at 93

Albert “Al” Ellingboe

Albert (Al) Ellingboe, professor emeritus in the Departments of Plant Pathology and Genetics, died on April 10th.

Al was born on his family farm in Lakeville, MN. He stayed in Minnesota, where he received bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in Plant Pathology. He completed a postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University and joined the faculty at Michigan State University in 1960. He came to UW-Madison as a Professor of Plant Pathology with a joint appointment with the Genetics Department on July 1, 1983.

Al was an internationally recognized authority on the genetics of host-pathogen interactions in plants. His research focused primarily on fungal pathogens of cereal grains, including barley, wheat, corn, and rice. He developed a sexually competent population of the pathogen Magnaporthe grisea, the incitant of the rice blast disease, which allowed him to identify the genes in the pathogen that determine the specificity of the interaction with the host and identify the genes that determine whether the specificity is expressed. With that, he identified genes in race that determine and control the interactions with the pathogen. He also established a breeding program to select for natural resistance to blight disease of Chestnut.

He was a caring mentor for numerous students and post-doctoral fellows, many of whom have remained in contact with him and his wife. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS) in 1978, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Plant Pathology (U Minnesota) in 2003, and he was honored with an Honorary Doctorate of Agricultural Sciences and Technologies from the University of Naples, Italy, in 1995.  He was the Director of Research for the American Chestnut Foundation for many years, and he and his family planted numerous Chestnut trees at their Dodgeville ‘tree farm’.  Al traveled and worked on 6 different continents with his students and collaborators. He was a member of the local Ygdrasil Literary Society.

We are grateful to have known Al Ellingboe as a scientist, instructor, and especially as a person. He will be greatly missed, and we extend our sympathies to all who shared a part of their life with him. He is survived by his wife Ann, his children Lori, Leah (Jim), Bert (Sue), and Brian (Errin), his sister Hazel Tanger, and grandchildren Haakon, Vitya, Christine, Emily, Lachlan, Zoe, and Finn.