N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: May 28, 1993
Discipline / contribution: botany - plant breeding ; plant pathology
Citation / biographical information:
Eminent Chancellor, on behalf of Council and Senate, I present to you Francis J. Zillinsky of Gloucester, Ontario, plant breeder, plant geneticist and plant pathologist.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
Frank Zillinsky was born July 16, 1917, at Medicine Hat, Alberta. When he was two, the family moved to Watrous, Saskatchewan, and bought a farm. Frank received his early education in Watrous and, following high school, attended the Saskatoon Technical Institute. He then joined the R.C.A.F. and spent most of his service overseas with the 410
Cougar Night Fighter Squadron.
While overseas, Frank married Hilda Joan Barker and they have three children.
After the war, Frank attended the University of Saskatchewan, receiving his B.S.A. in 1949 and his M.Sc. in 1950, in the old Field Husbandry Department. He then moved to Agriculture Canada's Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, where he was successively oat breeder, head of the oat and barley breeding program and head of the Cereal Crops Section.
Frank was among the first plant scientists to recognize the importance of genetic diversity in crops and of making germplasm collections. He organized an expedition to the Mediterranean area, particularly North Africa, to collect wild relatives of oats. The resulting collection has been an important source of rust resistance and the Ottawa Research Station is still a major centre for oat germplasm.
In 1967, Dr. Norman Borlaug, Nobel prize winner and Director of the International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement in Mexico, invited Dr. Zillinsky to Head a newly established Triticale Improvement Program. For those of you who are not familiar with it, triticale is a hybrid between durum wheat and rye. Although it has great yield potential, the early triticales had two problems, partial sterility and shrunken seeds. Frank made a major breakthrough when he was able to select types that had much improved fertility and plumper seeds.
As part of his program, Frank organized a world-wide system of cooperation and testing of triticale. Material from Mexico formed the basis of the program and Frank travelled widely in developing countries, providing assistance and expertise. Triticale is now grown in many countries and does particularly well on poor, acid soils and in areas of climatic stress.
Frank recognized the importance of cereal diseases. In 1983 he prepared a book on their identification and control, titled Common Diseases of Small Grain Cereals. It was superbly illustrated with his own color photographs.
If I had to describe Frank in two words I would say "enthusiastic and optimistic." He does not believe that there is any problem that cannot be solved, and he tackles each one with vigor and enthusiasm.
Dr. Zillinsky retired in 1982. Dr. Borlaug says of him that he, "is an outstanding humanitarian, loyal to his organization and his country, and a friend to all mankind."
Eminent Chancellor, I present to you Dr. Francis J. Zillinsky and ask that you confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.
Degree presented by: Doug Knott
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