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2008 Distinguished Alumnus

Posted: June 12, 2009

Joseph M. Duich '52 B.S., '57 Ph.D. Agronomy

Joseph M. Duich, professor emeritus of turfgrass science in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, was recently selected by the university’s board of trustees to receive the 2008 Distinguished Alumni Award, the university’s highest award for an individual.

As a faculty member in agronomy at Penn State from 1955 to 1991, Duich developed turfgrass species for use on golf courses and athletic fields. While in graduate school, he worked with his advisor, H.B. Musser, on the development of Penncross bentgrass, which was released in 1954. Today Penncross is the most widely used bentgrass on golf courses around the world.

Among other Penn turf varieties that Duich developed are Pennfine perennial ryegrass, Pennstar Kentucky bluegrass, Pennlinks, Penneagle, six Penn A and G series bentgrasses, and Seaside II.

Duich donated his patent royalties from the sale of these turfgrass varieties to Penn State, which established an endowment in his name. Today, the Joseph M. Duich Turfgrass Endowment stands at nearly $2.5 million, interest income from which is the major source of support for Penn State's Joseph Valentine Turfgrass Research Center, which Duich helped establish.

Throughout his 36 years teaching at Penn State, Duich taught eight turf courses, mentored 21 master’s and doctoral students, and formed the Musser International Turfgrass Foundation in honor of his mentor. This foundation annually presents its Award of Excellence and $20,000 to a qualified doctoral candidate to help pay for the student’s continued study in turfgrass science.

In addition to breeding turfgrass, Duich is credited with writing more than 100 technical publications on topics such as turfgrass weed and disease control, nitrogen fertilization, putting-green speed management, species competition, renovation, soil modification and seed priming.

Duich has been honored with 15 awards for his dedication to the science and business of agronomy. In recognition of his lifelong devotion to improving the game of golf by breeding new turfgrasses, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America selected Duich to receive the 2006 Old Tom Morris Award – its most prestigious honor.

Duich grew up in Farrell and Hickory Township, Pa. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1946 to 1948 before earning a bachelor’s degree in agronomy in 1952 and a doctorate in agronomy in 1957, both from Penn State. He retired from teaching at Penn State in 1991 but continues his work as a turfgrass consultant and scientist. Duich and his wife, Patricia, who live in State College, Pa., have three children.