News Forum

SASPP Honorary Membership – Awarded to John Mildenhall August 2022

Prof. John Mildenhall’s association with the SASPPM, the predecessor of the SASPP, dates to 1966, shortly after the society was founded. John then pursued a PhD at the University of Wisconsin and accepted a position at the University of Fort Hare upon his return in 1971. Given the remoteness of Fort Hare in a plant pathology context, John highly valued the opportunities offered by the SASPPM and later SASPP to meet and interact with fellow plant pathologists. His enthusiasm and support of the SASPP thus stretches over many years, even long after retirement, and are evident from his regular attendances, academic contributions, and recollections of business matters and social events. Over his long career John distinguished himself as a versatile plant pathologist with research interests ranging from water relations in Erwinia chrysanthemi to fungicide baths in citrus packhouses.

Earlier, John also contributed to the invitation of international keynote speakers to congresses, starting with his professors and fellow students at Wisconsin. As such, Dr Arthur Kelman, Dr Paul Williams, Dr Don Hagedorn, Dr Noel Keen, and Dr Mike Stanghellini (University of Arizona) presented at our meetings in the 1980s and 1990s and the trend to invite prominent overseas speakers has continued ever since. He also worked from 1985 to 1993 in collaboration with Prof. Stanley Alcorn at the University of Arizona, Tucson, isolating organisms from diseased cacti in the desert in an effort to find a pathogen for controlling Opuntia aurantiaca. Prof. Mildenhall was elected a Fellow of the SASPP in 1990.

Pictures (below) of Prof. John Mildenhall in action at the 75th anniversary of the Department of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 1985 (Andrews, 2010).

As a gesture of generosity and belief in the well-being of the SASPP, John endowed a considerable amount of money on two occasions, collectively the largest sum received from any individual in the history of the society. Interest earned from this investment is used to finance the John and Petakin Mildenhall Award, comprising a certificate and cash payment to a deserving PhD graduate. John’s involvement in other events that have shaped the soul of SASPP congresses over the years includes midnight swimming sessions, a beer-drinking stunt, a canvas tent as congress venue at Cintsa, and many personal anecdotes of behind-the-scenes activities. The beer-drinking trick known as “Mildenhall Stakes”, soon perfected by the younger generation, has become a fixed and popular item on the agenda. John has shown unfailing support of, and enthusiasm for the society and is considered a true stalwart of the SASPP.