Monday, July 6, 2009

Services planned for Robert Wheeler

Dr. Robert Aaron Wheeler, 57, passed away June 29, 2009, at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital after a short battle with cancer, which was a risk associated with his kidney transplant for treatment of polycystic kidney disease. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 7 at the UAF Georgeson Botanical Garden pavilion.

Dr. Wheeler taught forestry classes for SNRAS, including "NRM 452 Forest Health and Protection." He was born in Lewiston, Idaho, on Oct. 5, 1951. He grew up in eastern Oregon, living at several Forest Service ranger stations. This is where he developed his love for fishing, hunting, and forestry. He graduated in 1974 from Oregon State University with a bachelor of science in forestry and earned a master’s degree in forestry from Colorado State University in 1978. After working for a private lumber company in Bend, Ore., for eight years, he moved to Hawaii where he worked on agro-forestry research for five years at the University of Hawaii. Bob traveled extensively with this job, visiting many South Pacific and Southeast Asia countries. While at Hawaii, he developed a fast growing variety of the tree, Leucaena, which is now grown and used throughout Indonesia, South America, Mexico, and Australia. He then returned to school and received his doctorate from Purdue University in 1993. From there, Bob spent a year teaching forestry at Alemaya University in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. He returned to work for the state of Montana and built his dream log house in Red Lodge, Mont. Bob moved to Fairbanks in 1997, where he worked for the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service as a forestry specialist. His most recent project was developing cold tolerant apple trees that would grow and thrive in the Interior. Bob was active in the local, state and national forestry associations, and many committees associated with the university, as well as local and national cooperative extension organizations. His areas of interest included horticulture and climate change and its impact on the boreal forest.

Some of Bob’s colleagues in the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals created a blog about Bob. A note from UAF Provost Susan Henrichs, sent to all UAF faculty and staff last week, lauded Bob for his university service. “In addition to his valued Extension work, many of you became acquainted with Bob due to his diligent service on a number of campus committees, including the Master Planning Committee and Promotion & Tenure Committee.”

Bob is survived by his wife of 35 years, Beverly. Donations are being accepted at the Georgeson Botanical Garden for a memorial apple tree in Bob’s name. Donations may be sent to Georgeson Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 757200, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99775-7200.

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