On Aug. 5, National Sorghum Producers said goodbye to a giant of the industry when Dr. Bruce Maunder passed away at the age of 85. Exactly two years ago, Chris Cogburn used this column to pay tribute to Bruce, and as I read back over my predecessor’s words, the thought of Bruce mowing our lawn with his “wild gray tufts protruding from beneath the old Dekalb hat he often wore” made me smile. Bruce’s dedication to this industry — down to the last blade of detail — may never be matched.
Bruce was born May 13, 1934, in Holdrege, Neb., and he spent much of his childhood and early teenage years splitting time between Lincoln and Grand Island, where his grandparents had settled on a farm after emigrating from Germany in the 1800s.
Bruce’s parents worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, so he graduated from the Overseas High School of Rome, Italy, in 1952, the same year he graduated from Northeast High School in Lincoln. He stayed in Lincoln for his bachelor’s degree then attended Purdue University for his master’s and Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics, which he completed in 1960.
Upon graduating from Purdue, Bruce accepted a job with Dekalb in Lubbock, Texas, where he would spend the next six decades helping shape both the sorghum industry and American agriculture, ultimately as senior vice president of Dekalb and later as research adviser for NSP and chairman of the National Sorghum Foundation. His list of accomplishments includes product launches on 10 million acres in 49 countries; adjunct professorships; advisory appointments with the Crop Science Society, Diversity magazine, the World Food Prize, the Sorghum Crop Germplasm Committee and USAID INTSORMIL; and multiple honorary doctorate degrees. Bruce was also awarded the Monsanto Crop Science Distinguished Career Award in 2000.
In addition to his own distinguished resume, Bruce was a close friend of the legendary Norman Borlaug, and he rubbed elbows with many other members of the world’s agricultural elite. However, it was the activities for which he received little to no recognition that made the most impact. Often unbeknownst to everyone except the recipients of his support, Bruce advised countless students over the course of his career and financially backed countless others through generous contributions to scholarship programs at seven universities.
He also mentored many members of NSP’s staff, supporting young leaders in key roles and providing much-needed education across the organization. No position was unimportant to Bruce, and the profound impact he had even in the lives of interns is a testament to this conviction.
I count myself blessed to have known and been mentored by Bruce, and I hope you will join me and the rest of the sorghum industry in sending sincere thoughts and prayers to Bruce’s wife, Kathy, and the entire Maunder family. Cards and condolences may be sent to Kathy Maunder at 4511 9th Street, Lubbock, Texas 79416. Donations can be made to the National Sorghum Foundation in honor and in memory of Bruce at sorghumgrowers.com/foundation. Fittingly, all proceeds will benefit the scholarship programs about which Bruce and Kathy were so passionate.