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Longtime UF/IFAS administrator retires after outstanding career in research, outreach

Christine T. Waddill (Chris), Professor and Center Director, Ph.D., Everglades REC - Belle Glade.

Chris Waddill

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Her career at UF/IFAS spanned 20 years, starting as Dean for UF/IFAS Extension and later working as director of three research and education centers. Now, Chris Waddill is ready to retire.

On Oct. 31, Waddill officially leaves the Tropical Research and Education Center, a facility she ran for six years. Now, she’s joining her husband, Van, another retired UF/IFAS administrator, at their home on Duck Key.

She left quite a mark on TREC. As Waddill leaves, the REC is hiring new faculty, including an agricultural engineer and two breeders.

“We are so pleased to have five of the seven new faculty hired at TREC,” she said. “These faculty will help South Florida agricultural interests remain competitive by seeking out new crops and improving existing crops that can thrive in our unique ecosystem. This is the first time in about 30 years that we will have breeders who can improve our tropical crops but most importantly, seek improved crops for our growers.”

“In addition, in partnership with the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center and the UF/IFAS department of microbiology and cell science, we will have faculty dedicated to the critical issues of climate change as our coastlines and particularly the low areas of south Miami are being challenged by sea level rise today.”

Before Waddill headed up the Tropical REC, she worked as director of the UF/IFAS Everglades REC (EREC) and the Southwest Florida REC (SWFREC) in Immokalee, simultaneously. As head of two research centers, Waddill crisscrossed the state numerous times, but she said all that travel was worth it.

“As center director of EREC and SWFREC, I was most proud of how I was able to bring these two faculties together on mutual areas of concern regarding the vegetable and sugarcane industries and because of this, acquire more fiscal support from these industries to address both research and outreach concerns,” Waddill said. “Working with the sugarcane industry, we were able to raise funds to hire a key faculty position in plant pathology to be part of the sugarcane team.”

Prior to overseeing research centers, Waddill worked as UF/IFAS Extension dean from 1995 to 2003. Originally from Rochester, New York, she came to UF/IFAS from faculty and administrative positions at Michigan State University, where she was a plant pathologist.

Waddill took the job at UF/IFAS after serving as assistant dean of agriculture and natural resources at Michigan State University.

“I really had no plans to move, however, my long-term mentor thought differently,” she said. That mentor, George Agrios, was chair of the UF/IFAS plant pathology department from 1988 to 2000. Agrios wrote five editions of a book titled, “Plant Pathology,” thought to be the most widely used plant pathology text in the world. “He persuaded me to get a doctorate in plant pathology, worked with me to land a position at Michigan State and then was relentless in making sure that my hat was in the ring for the UF/IFAS Extension dean position.

“When I interviewed, I was overwhelmed by the vitality in UF/IFAS and the many opportunities in Florida,” Waddill said. “My major professor at Michigan State was an Extension specialist, I fell in love with the Extension mission and spent my academic career as either an Extension specialist or in Extension administration.”

Waddill plans plenty of leisurely activities in her retirement. She’ll travel, volunteer, spend more time with her daughters and grandchildren and other members of her extended family. She’ll enjoy her home in Duck Key, lobstering, snorkeling and fishing with friends and family. Waddill also wants to spend time at her cottage in Penn Yan, New York and at Van’s ranch in the Hill country in Texas.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Chris Waddill, cwaddill@ufl.edu