The Bob V. Conger Fund was established in memory of Bob V. Conger (1938-2022), an active member of the Society for In Vitro Biology (SIVB) for many years. This fund has been established by Bob’s family with contributions from students, visiting scientists, and colleagues. Bob V. Conger was born on July 2, 1938, in Greeley, Colorado, where he was raised on his family farm in Pierce, Colorado, and where he graduated from Pierce High School in 1956. He attended Colorado State University where he received a BS with Distinction in Agronomy in 1963 and his PhD from Washington State University in Plant Genetics in 1967. His career started at the UT-AEC Agricultural Research Laboratory, later known as Comparative Animal Research Lab in Oak Ridge, TN, where he conducted research and experiments on plants. In 1976, he accepted a position at the University of Tennessee (UT) to conduct forage grass research, initially with Orchardgrass, and to teach classes in Plant Genetics and Statistics. He became a Full Professor in 1978 and was awarded the “Austin Distinguished Professor” in 1986 for his research and teaching. He continued his work at UT until retiring in 2003.
At the 2006 Society for In Vitro Biology (SIVB) meeting, Bob received the SIVB Lifetime Achievement Award for his work with forage grass tissue culture. His proudest accomplishments were having his Orchardgrass system twice selected by NASA for experiments on Space Shuttle “Discovery” in 1994 and 1998 and developing a new Orchardgrass cultivar (‘Persist’) for farmers in 2002, which is now sold throughout the world by Smith Seed Services located at Halsey, Oregon. During his career, Bob had sixteen graduate students, eleven earning MS degrees and five earning their Doctorates. There were also numerous Post Docs and Visiting Scientists from the United States, Bulgaria, Poland, India, Czech Republic, and the Ukraine who spent time in Bob’s lab. One of Bob’s students, Alexander Kuklin, in his dissertation, summed it up well by including a Walt Whitman’s quote from the poem “Leaves of Grass” where it states “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of stars” which truly applies to Bob Conger’s work. Bob Conger was recognized in the May/June 2023 issue of In Vitro Cellular & Development Biology – Plant. where the authors highlighted key accomplishments and personal accounts of the impact Bob had on the field and for those that spent time in his lab.
The purpose of the Bob V. Conger Fund is to recognize a quality student oral presentations at the SIVB Annual Meeting. Funds from this award will directly support the winners of the annual Student Oral Presentation Competition which is open to student researchers working in Plant Cell and Tissue Culture and Biotechnology from around the globe. Winners of the competition will receive cash prizes as follows: First prize: $250.00; Second prize, $150.00; Third prize: $100.00.