Linking across the generations in Plant Pathology

Ira Deep group shot

Ira Deep (pictured, second from left), professor emeritus in plant pathology, may have retired 15 years ago, but he continues to link today's students with the Department of Plant Pathology's early beginnings.

Deep joined Ohio State in 1968 to establish a new, stand-alone Department of Plant Pathology as its first chair. He was instrumental in creating the department's undergraduate major, and he also created courses in plant disease management and societal issues that are still taught today.

In recent years, he has assisted with a bioterrorism and biosecurity course taught by Michael J. Boehm (right). Boehm values Deep’s extensive experience, but it is the opportunity for students to interact across the generations that may be the greatest benefit.

Boehm, professor of plant pathology, assumed the position of vice provost for academic and strategic planning in 2010, and recently became special assistant to the university president. He sees untapped potential in utilizing emeritus faculty in academic settings.

Boehm would like to see more opportunities to incorporate what might be called "multi-generational learning experiences."  As an example, last year's bioterrorism class included five students who were combat veterans. Deep served in the Marines during World War II, and Boehm is a Navy veteran who was on active duty after 9/11. Boehm set up a special session for the three generations of military veterans to share their experiences -- a meeting that itself became a memorable experience, with a value beyond classroom learning.

Emeritus faculty can offer different perspectives through their life experiences, and their stories can bring past events to life. Ideally, Boehm would like to see an endowment established to create ways for emeritus faculty to become involved with students.

On the final class period of this semester's bioterrorism class, Deep was surprised with a cake to celebrate his last official teaching assignment. Students, staff, his wife, Annie Marie (left), and the department's current chair, Terry Niblack (second from right), were on hand to share in the celebration as Boehm and Deep shared stories about Deep's longstanding association with Ohio State.—Monica Lewandowski, Plant Pathology