WOOSTER, Ohio — Steve Slack, director of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), has announced he will retire at the end of 2015 after 16 years at the helm of the nation’s largest university agbiosciences research institution.
“After more than 40 years of faculty and administrative service, the time is right to transition to the next phase of my life,” said Slack, who is also associate vice president for agricultural administration at The Ohio State University. OARDC is the research arm of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
Slack joined OARDC after serving as chair of the Department of Plant Pathology at Cornell University (1995-1999), where he was also the Henry and Mildred Uihlein Professor of Plant Pathology beginning in 1988. Before that, he was a faculty member in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
During his tenure at Ohio State, Slack has been in charge of research administration for one of the university’s largest and most comprehensive colleges as well as management of OARDC’s Wooster campus and 10 outlying research stations across the state.
“Steve has accomplished an incredible amount during his time as director of OARDC and has had a significant impact on the college,” said Bruce McPheron, Ohio State’s vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES. “His steady leadership has helped OARDC grow not only in talented faculty, infrastructure and funding, but also in targeted research programs that address crucial needs in Ohio and around the world.”
Slack’s key accomplishments include tripling extramural funding for the organization; leading an extensive review of OARDC programs and its economic impact in Ohio that identified three core investment areas (food, environment and bioeconomy), which later became the college’s strategic areas; and supporting public-private partnerships, including the BioHio Research Park.
He also oversaw important facility improvements, including the Ralph Regula Plant and Animal Agrosecurity Research facility, the state’s only public BSL-3 Ag biosafety lab; a state-of-art Feedstock Processing Research Facility; and new headquarters at three outlying research stations. Additionally, he led campus recovery following a 2010 tornado that caused $30 million in damage. This included construction of a new Agricultural Engineering Building, the first “green” building on the Wooster campus, attaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, and a new complex of horticultural greenhouses.
“I have had the privilege to work with many committed and talented administrative, faculty and staff colleagues. Nothing is ever accomplished alone,” Slack said “We have also developed a close working relationship with the city of Wooster and Wayne County, which have turned many of the challenges over the past decade and a half into opportunities to move forward, especially on economic development issues.”
Slack is a fellow and past president of the American Phytopathological Society, an honorary life member and past president of the Potato Association of America, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has also provided leadership to several boards and sections of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), including two terms on the Policy Board of Directors.
“There are few experiment station directors of the tenure of Steve Slack who have consistently provided strong visionary leadership not only for their individual institutions but for the collective whole of the country’s public and land-grant universities,” said Ian Maw, vice president for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources at APLU. “He is a man of few words, but when he speaks folks do listen. He will be missed by many of us.”
Slack received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and his doctorate from the University of California-Davis.
He and his wife Susie have two children and two grandchildren and live in Wooster, where they have chosen to stay during retirement.
“When we first came to Wooster, we knew very little about Ohio,” Slack said. “We chose to live here, and it has been a great decision for both of us. This community has welcomed and accepted us with open arms. We now consider Wooster to be home.”
Slack said retirement plans include traveling, spending more time with his grandchildren and golfing.