Sorghum expert can’t stop volunteering
Bruce Maunder and his wife, Kathy, are enjoying their trip to Maui, watching the sunrise, walking along the shore, sipping drinks from coconut shells, and dining in the light of tiki torches. When they get back to the condo, he opens up a briefcase and goes to work.
What's going on here? This is supposed to be a vacation, and he's supposed to be retired.
For most retirees, the front porch rocking chair becomes the seat of choice, and the rest of life becomes a vacation. Maunder, MS '58, PhD '60, however, chose a different kind of retirement: he's the volunteer research adviser for the National Grain Sorghum Producers in Lubbock, Texas.
Maunder, 69, is in his office three mornings a week, working with the public relations staff on newsletters, visiting with members of Congress, or training new personnel.
“With age, your status goes up, because they think you're more experienced and wise,” he jokes.
If you don't find him in his office, check the front yard: His unofficial duties include mowing the grass and maintaining the sprinkler system.
“He worries about the yard more than he does his hair,” says Tim Lust, executive director of the sorghum association. “He volunteered to take care of the yard when he came, and he's been doing it ever since.”
In fact, volunteering is just an innate part of Maunder's personality: He turned down a paid, part-time job with the sorghum association to be their volunteer research adviser.
In that capacity, he conducts research in genetics and plant breeding, educates others about the wise utilization of the grain, lobbies, and oversees check-off programs.
He also continues to serve on the World Food Prize Committee, a position he was nominated for seven years ago by William Brown, the former president of Pioneer Hibred International Inc., because of Maunder's research expertise and his interest in feeding the world's hungry.
The committee awards a $250,000 annual prize for achievements that enhance food production, distribution, food availability and accessibility to those most in need.
On this committee, Maunder works with Norman Borlaug, known as the “Father of the Green Revolution.” Maunder says Borlaug helped to motivate him by example, and by a simple saying: “If you slow down, your brain will shrink.”
Nobody can accuse Maunder of slowing down in retirement. In his first six years of retirement, he has given papers and written technical material for 13 conferences around the world. He still serves on numerous other committees, gives presentations about the sorghum industry, and is constantly looking for ways to share research information.
While Maunder freely shares information gathered by the sorghum producers association, that wasn't always the case during his 37 years at DeKalb, where disclosing company research results could be a million dollar mistake. He joined DeKalb right after college as a plant breeder specializing in sorghum, and eventually became a senior vice president. Maunder greatly expanded the company's domestic and international hybrid development and testing program and promoted computerized breeding programs.
So why did he stay with one company his whole career? He says he enjoyed the challenges and opportunities as well as the many colleagues with whom he worked, and that motivated him to stay there and put in lots of seven-day work-weeks. Also, plant-breeding projects take a long time.
A Purdue professor also gave him a piece of advice that he still believes today: “If you really dedicate yourself the first two years of your career, your future will take care of itself.”
Maunder gives credit for much of his success at DeKalb to his favorite instructor in graduate school, Fred Patterson.
Patterson, Purdue professor emeritus of agronomy, fondly recalls Maunder, as well. “He was an excellent student and was on the forefront of the industry even as a student,” he says.
Purdue recognized Maunder's achievements by awarding him an honorary doctorate May 16. Maunder also recently received the Monsanto Distinguished Career Award and the American Seed Trade Distinguished Service Award.
“He has only one speed, and I don't see him slowing down soon,” says Lust. “He's at a level that works well for him.”
Once he does slow down, though, Maunder can expect plenty of payback from former sorghum association employees.
“He loves to play jokes on people when they leave — an employee roast. He sits the person down in the middle, so they can be the center of attention. Then he reads the one or two pages of jokes personalized for that person,” Lust says. “He takes you back memory lane in a humorous way.”
Maunder's memory lane already is packed with recollections from his long career with DeKalb, countless involvements, sharing sorghum research, trips to Maui, and the love of his wife and son, Chris. But when it comes time to give him a retirement roast, you can bet somebody will remember to draw that comparison between the hair on his head and the front lawn at the sorghum association headquarters.
Contact Maunder at Texasgreenbug@aol.com
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