William C. Denison

William C. Denison


June 1, 1928 - April 8, 2005

William C. Denison of Corvallis died on April 8 at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center after a lengthy illness. He was 76.

He was born in Rochester, N.Y., to Glenn Morris Denison and Rhoda Taylor Torrance Denison. He married Margaret Roxanne Mellinger in Chicopee, Massachusetts on Sept. 11, 1948. He received bachelor's and master's degrees in botany from Oberlin College in 1950 and 1952 and a doctoral degree in mycology from Cornell University in 1956.

He was an assistant professor in the department of biology at Swarthmore College from 1955 to 1966. He was an associate professor in the department of botany and plant pathology at Oregon State University from 1966 until his retirement in 1993.

He taught general botany, mycology, plant ecology and plant pathology. Many of his students received their doctoral degrees and became scientists, professors and mycologists. In 1992, OSU presented him with the Loyd Carter Award for Outstanding and Inspirational Teaching.

His diverse research and publications involved mushrooms, molds, and lichens. He published "Air Quality Monitoring with Lichens." During the early 1970s, he led a team that adapted rock-climbing techniques to ascend 450-year-old Douglas-fir trees at the H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest. They mapped the structure of the canopy, inventoried the epiphytic lichens and measured their available nitrogen and its contribution to the forest.

He founded Northwest Mycological Consultants in 1985. NMC currently provides mushroom growers with quality mushroom spawn, focusing primarily on shiitake. NMC has been involved with mushroom research, contracts, and consulting farmers throughout the world. The company maintains a large variety of cultures, and supplies growers with technical support, equipment and sterilization supplies.

Bill contributed his expertise on mushrooms and lichens to the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team, which wrote the Northwest Forest Plan.

He co-founded the Willamette Institute of Biological Control, a non-profit dedicated to developing practical, environmentally-friendly pest control solutions. This group convinced the Oregon Department of Agriculture to substitute Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) for toxic sprays to eradicate the gypsy moth.

In the early 1990s, Bill became concerned that the importation of green logs from Siberia might introduce invasive fungal or insect pathogens that could destroy Oregon's Douglas-fir forests as the American Chestnut and the American Elm had been destroyed in the past. He knew that inspections by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service had frequently failed to keep pathogens out of the United States. His court testimony resulted in an injunction banning the importation of unprocessed wood products from all countries except Canada and Mexico.

In 2004 he made contact with the Far East Forestry Institute of the Ministry of Russian Natural Resources. They were enthusiastic about receiving sterile Douglas fir seeds to plant in their nursery. Over many years, they would see if the seedlings and mature trees were susceptible to Asiatic pests. His failing health prevented him from continuing this project, but his colleagues and Willamette Institute have promised to see it through.

His research and consulting have taken him to Costa Rica, Mexico, Bhutan, and Pohnpei Micronesia. In the late 1990s, Bill made three trips to Russia as a volunteer for Agricultural Cooperative Development International/Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance, a non-profit, international development agency. He provided technical assistance on mushroom growing to farmers, cooperatives, and government agencies.

His scientific studies continued after retirement. He located areas where Lobaria lichens thrived, then observed and photographed their fruiting bodies (ascospores) over several seasons. He also collected ascospores and developed ways to germinate them in culture.

His community projects have included serving as a draft counselor during the Vietnam War, being faculty advisor for the Association of Conscientious, Thoughtful Students, which started the First Alternative Natural Foods Coop, being active in land use planning, helping form Adair's Volunteer Fire Department, and making 106 blood donations to the American Red Cross-a total of 13.25 gallons.

He is survived by his wife, Margo, and their four children and spouses: R. Ford Denison and Cindy Tong; Thomas C. Denison, Elizabeth Kerle and their sons, Carson and Paul; Glenn T. Denison and Shelly Nielson Denison; and Rebecca S. Denison, Daniel Johnston and their daughters, Sarah and Sophia. He is also survived by his sister and brother-in-law, Ann D. Lawrence and Robert Lawrence, and numerous other relatives and friends.

A celebration of Bill's life will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at the First United Methodist Church Community Center, 1165 N.W. Monroe Ave. Bring food for a potluck; table service will be provided. Friends may share their experiences and memories during the meal. A square dance will follow. Please RSVP to 745-5811.

Memorial contributions to support the Russian-American Douglas-fir Project may be made to Willamette Institute, 25776 Alpine Road, Monroe, OR 97456.

To plant a tree in memory of William Denison as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.

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