College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences

In Memory Of

President Elson S. Floyd Leaves a Legacy of Inspiration for CAHNRS









Elson S. Floyd didn’t grow up on a farm, but he recognized the value of agriculture and Washington State University’s role in supporting farmers, ranchers, and the industry as a whole. Before classes had even begun during his first academic year at WSU in 2007, he was on the road touring the state to meet with and listen to agricultural stakeholders, editorial boards, economic development committees and alumni as well as faculty and research staff.

Regardless of the venue, President Floyd’s message emphasized excellence in agriculture, economic development, and global reach for the University. Building our capacity in the agricultural sciences and serving the state’s food and agriculture sector was a theme that he shared beyond agricultural audiences. President Floyd was clear that we would build upon our strengths, and the key word was build. (Read More)


Dr. Walter Hale Gardner, 1917-2015

Dr Gardner

The Department of Crop and Soil Sciences mourns the loss of one of our most admired scientists, teachers, and mentors, Professor Walter H. Gardner on June 11, 2015. Dr. Gardner was true pioneer in the field of soil physics and his film Water Movement in Soils is still purchased from the department and the funds used to support student activities. The article below was written by family members and Dr. Gaylon Campbell, who was a PhD student of Professor Gardner before joining the CSS faculty.

Walter was born in Beaver, Utah, on February 24th, 1917, to Willard Gardner and Rebecca Viola Hale. He was fourth in a family of seven children raised in Logan Utah in a home just off the Utah State University campus. As a youth, Walter excelled at sports, particularly football and tennis, and he was a gifted mathematician (at a glance, young Walt would accurately calculate lumber loads and board feet at the mill). He also was an accomplished glass blower, providing scientific lab equipment for the science faculty at the university to make extra money. Just after college, he used that experience as a designer at Central Scientific Company in Chicago. He was active in his high school paper, serving as managing editor. He often said that he would have been delighted to pursue journalism as a career had his passion for science not eclipsed his interest in writing.

Walter held a deep respect for his father, a renowned scientist known as the Father of Modern Soil Physics (Walter’s children often called him the Son of Soil Physics), and their interests in the physical properties of soil ran parallel courses. Walter did graduate work at Cornell University and then at Utah State University where he was awarded the first Ph.D. granted at that institution.

Walter served in the Army Air Corp as a navigator on B17 Bombers. He served under his uncle, General Grandison Gardner, and was promised that he wouldn’t enjoy great promotional opportunities because of the family tie, but that he would “never lack for interesting things to do.” That proved to be the truth, and Walter had significant input as an instrumentation designer (the man could build anything!) for the state of the art Climatic Hangar at Eglin Field, and the project to develop the U2 Missile based on the German Buzz Bomb near the end of the war. Walter retired as a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

After the war, Walter met and married Barbara Brown who was a student at Utah State. The two made their family home in Pullman, Washington where he was Professor of Soil Physics at Washington State University. He was dedicated to the success of his many undergraduate and graduate students, and Barbara was a homemaker and devoted mother of five.

Walter and his family traveled extensively. They lived a year in Renkum, Holland, while Walter was a Guggenheim Fellow at Wageningen Agricultural University, and another in Vienna, Austria, where he worked at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Walter doted on his wife until her death, after which he said his one lasting resentment was that he didn’t have one more day to care for her. He was as attentive to his children’s needs as he was to his companion’s, and his family fondly remembers his complete devotion to his wife, his faith, and his science. He was as comfortable at a chalkboard staring thoughtfully at a long equation as he was doing the dishes, or playing on the living room floor with his children. He was a peaceful and dignified man who cherished a quiet testimony of Jesus Christ.

Walter was a calm and thoughtful father. He was conscious of his health and remained active well into his nineties. Growing from his love of tennis, Walter took up racquetball at the age of fifty and eventually won a number of gold medals in the senior Olympics. His guilty pleasure was to lure unsuspecting young racquetballers into a game with an old man and then “skinnin’ ‘em” on the court– which amused his wife very much.

In 1972 Walter published (with L. D. Baver, and his cousin, Wilford Gardner) the 4th Edition of the widely used text Soil Physics. In 1992 W. A. Jury published the 5th edition, with Walter and Wilford as co-authors. Perhaps Walter’s most widely known professional accomplishment was his time-lapse movie Water Movement in Soil. It changed the way many scientists and industrialists understand the non-intuitive way water moves through soil. The movie continues to be popular and the supporting science remains valid. He was among the first to use multiple energy gamma beams to simultaneously measure water content and bulk density in soil, and the first to use attenuation of neutron beams for soil moisture measurement. He was also the first to create a one-dimensional root system by growing plants on a fine screen, letting only the root hairs through to take up water and nutrients from the soil. He was likely the first to build and use a tension infiltrometer, an instrument now widely used by soil physicists and other soil scientists. He built his first tension infiltrometer when he was an undergraduate student running the physics shop in his father’s department at Utah State.

Walter served the Society in several important capacities during his career. He was chair of the Soil Physics division in 1963, and SSSA President in 1983. He served as associate editor of SSSAJ, and was Editor-in-Chief from 1966-1969.

Walter died on June 11, 2015, of complications of old age– a malady he didn’t particularly believe in.


Robert A. Nilan

After ninety-one years of what he so often called a bloody blessed life, Robert Arthur Nilan passed away peacefully on October 7, 2015 in Pullman, Washington. He was surrounded by love, prayers, and beautiful harp music. Known to friends and colleagues as Barley Bob, he died to the strains of Fields of Gold. You’ll remember me when the west wind moves upon the fields of barley.

Robert was born to Phyllis and Jack Nilan on December 26, 1923 in New Westminster, British Columbia. His early schooling in Burquitlam and New Westminster would launch a life long passion for education. Hiking and fishing with his father in the Canadian wilderness would inspire a love for the natural world and plant sciences. From the University of British Columbia in Vancouver he earned a Bachelors Degree in General Studies in 1944 and a Masters Degree in Plant Science in 1946. From the University of Wisconsin in Madison he received a PhD in Genetics in 1951.

While at UBC he met the love of his life, Winona Ross. They were married in Victoria, BC in 1948 and after their time in Madison they moved to Pullman for what they thought would be a short couple of years. When Bob arrived at what was then Washington State College, his focus was corn genetics. But he was soon counseled to work with the crops of the Palouse hills and that counsel would launch both a life long passion for barley and a career at Washington State University.

As Robert turned his attention to the propagation of better strains of barley, he and Winona turned their attention to the propagation of a family. Judith was born in 1951, Gregory in 1954, and Patricia in 1964. The family would grow to include five grandchildren and one great grandson. One of the last phone calls he received before he died was to tell him of a second great grandchild.

Robert worked with colleagues around the globe to create a world renowned program in barley breeding and genetics. This program took him to barley research centers on every continent and afforded him and the family sabbaticals in Italy, Sweden, Denmark, and England. During his career he authored two books, published over 100 scientific research articles, and trained sixty students for their Masters and PhD degrees.

Dr. Nilan helped create the Genetics Department and served as department Chair for nine years. In 1979 he was appointed Dean of the College of Science, a position he held for twelve years until his retirement in 1992. During his years in the ‘deanery’ as he lovingly called it, Nilan oversaw the development of numerous programs, including statistics, environmental sciences and regional planning, zoophysiology, and plant physiology. He also supported the development of two essential and widely-used Laboratories of Bioanalysis and Biotechnology, the Electron Microscopy Center, and the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Center.

During his long and distinguished career he won several awards and honors, including appointment to the Danish Academy of Science, the Nilan Distinguished Professorship in Barley Research and Education, the Washington State University Foundation Outstanding Service Award, the College of Sciences Legacy of Excellence Award, and most recently the establishment of the Robert A. Nilan Endowed Chair. One of his proudest career accomplishments was being a founding member of the International Barley Genetics Symposium. As he said of his beloved WSU, I can think of no other institution where I would have had such a rewarding and satisfying career.

Beyond his extensive academic and research contributions, he and Win were significant financial benefactors to the University, Pullman Regional Hospital, and WSU Museum of Art.

In 2007 he lost Winona, his wonderful wife of 59 years. He would later spend several happy years with long time friend Betty Clark. At the end of his life he was so very ready to make the journey home to be with Winona and thrived to the end in the care of Rob Mutisya. As people travel the journey of dementia they often express an essential nature. Family, friends, and caregivers will attest that Bob’s essential nature was love.

Nilan is survived by children Judith Nilan (Dennis Crowley), Gregory Nilan (Kate Bohn-Nilan & Laura Costadone), Patricia Nilan, and grandchildren Nicholas Nilan, Sydney Nilan, Brendan Lutes, Jaimi Lutes, and Jordan Lutes, and great-grandson Braxton Nilan. He will be deeply missed by Betty Clark, the Clark family and so many, many other friends and colleagues.

A celebration of Bob, his life, and the family, colleagues, community, and University he so dearly loved will be held on Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 2:00 PM in Ensminger Pavilion on the WSU campus. In honor of Dr. Nilan, donations can be made to Pullman Regional Hospital (840 SE Bishop Blvd., Suite 200, Pullman, WA 99163) or the Robert A. Nilan Endowed Chair through the WSU Foundation (P.O. Box 646228, Pullman, WA 99164-6228).


Dr. Roy Goss


The Department of Crop and Soil Sciences is saddened by the death of Dr. Roy L. Goss, a retired Washington State University turfgrass specialist and a generous contributor to students in the Turf Management major and to fundamental research in turfgrass science. He held three degrees from WSU (BS Agriculture ’50, B. of Education ’50, PhD Agriculture ’60) before his appointment as an extension specialist. Since 1958, Dr. Goss was instrumental in developing fertilizer management for golf courses and sports fields that minimized the use of fungicides and his research led to the use of sand as base material for golf greens and sports fields, greatly simplifying maintenance by improved drainage and durability. The practices he developed are considered the standards today. Many of these efforts have been widely recognized and adopted at the national and international level. The Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America (GCSA) and the U.S. Golf Association cited Dr. Goss as their 1988 Man of the Year for his contributions to golf course maintenance and development. He was honored with the GCSA Distinguished Service Award, the Pacific Seedsmen Association Man of the Year Award, the U.S. Golf Association’s Green Section Award, and the O.A. Vogel Faculty Award from Washington State University. The Northwest Turfgrass Association calls Dr. Goss the most influential and generous person in the history of their association and credits its existence today to his dedication and energy during the formative years and his long term financial support.

In 1988, Dr. Goss retired after dedicating 30 years to WSU but continued to have an impact on turf education, research, and outreach through his generosity. In his retirement year, he challenged the turf industry to donate toward education and research by offering to match contributions. Dr. Goss established the Roy L. Goss Endowment in 1987 to fund student travel to regional and national conferences and numerous scholarships for turf management majors. To honor his legacy, the turf research farm at the Puyallup Western Washington Research and Extension Center was named the R. L. Goss Research Farm. Roy and Marcella Goss strongly believed in supporting research and higher education and are, therefore, valued benefactors of Washington State University, the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, and the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. While we mourn his passing, we celebrate Dr. Goss’ lifelong contribution to turfgrass science, teaching, and extension. We have lost a dedicated family member. Link to Dr, Goss’ obituary

Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences, PO Box 646420, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-6420, 509-335-3475, Contact Us
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