Dr. Mike Owen retires after 35 years

February 15, 2018

Mike Owen grew up in Ames. His dad was a faculty member for the Atomic Energy Commission during the “Little Ankeny Project.”

“I grew up one house down from David Staniforth,” says Owen. “I started working on his crew in high school.”

After high school, he became a botany major at Iowa State. In 1970 he left Iowa State for a wrestling scholarship at another university. Due to an injury he gave up the scholarship and was drafted for the Vietnam War in 1971. Owen did a pre-induction physical and was accepted into the Army. He returned to Iowa State Spring Semester of 1971 and regained his student deferment.

Before graduation in 1974, Owen was walking down the hall in Bessey Hall. Staniforth asked about his post-graduation plans. Staniforth offered him a graduate assistantship in his lab, despite Owen’s concerns about his poor grades.

Owen studied the interaction of herbicide and disease on soybeans. After getting his master’s in 1975 he became an agriculturalist for American Cyanamid covering Illinois and Missouri. A couple years later he was asked to apply for a position in Illinois Extension. He agreed, but only if he could pursue a Ph.D. at the same time.

He worked as an Extension agronomist while doing his doctoral dissertation, graduating in 1982. He took a faculty position at the University of Florida. He was approached by Iowa State University and started as an assistant professor in Plant Pathology on December 1, 1982.

A year later, David Staniforth got sick. Owen took on his students and classes.

Based on a departmental review recommendation, he moved to Agronomy with seed science in 1987.

An active member of the faculty, Owen served as director of the Integrated Crop Management team, program leader of Agronomy Extension, director of the Agribusiness Education Program and the associate chair of the Department.

Owen served on Faculty Senate for many years in various leadership positions and committees.

“Learning more about how the university works has been interesting,” says Owen.

He was an integral part of expanding the policy for unacceptable performance of duty in the faculty handbook and rewrote the post-tenure review process.

Owen’s service crossed the University including VEISHEA Advisory Council, the University Budget committee, the University Strategic Plan committee, the Judiciary and Appeals Council chair as well as serving as the faculty advisor for Phi Gamma Delta, the men’s and women’s Hockey Clubs, the Hockey Cheerleaders and the Baseball Club.

His research has examined the weed seedbank population dynamics, the genetic and physiological control of weed seed dormancy, the genetics and physiology of herbicide resistance in weeds, the herbicide research/demonstration project.

February 16, 2018 will mark Owen’s last day after 35 years of service.

A retirement reception will be held February 16 from 3 pm to 5 pm in the Pioneer Room of the Memorial Union. A short program will happen at 3:30 pm.

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