Lowering the Flag: Dr. John Kuspira

The University of Alberta banner is flying at half-mast from November 4-6, 2019 in remembrance of Dr. John Kuspira, Professor Emeritus in…

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The University of Alberta banner is flying at half-mast from November 4-6, 2019 in remembrance of Dr. John Kuspira, Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Science.

Image for PostDr. John Kuspira. Photo by Akemi Matsubuchi Photography.

Frost's prescient words, "Two roads diverged in a wood; I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference", are an apt encapsulation of John Kuspira's odyssey of life.

The eldest of 13 siblings, John was born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan (1928). Despite overtures from several NHL scouts upon completion of his secondary education, John opted for academia - Honors BSA & MSc (USaskatoon, 1951, 1952), and a PhD (UAlberta, 1955). As UAlberta's first Genetics PhD, John Kuspira, "made all the difference" for the discipline at his alma mater, and arguably, at universities across the globe.

An academic appointment (1956) with the Department of Plant Science launched a stellar career that earned John recognition as a Canadian pioneer in Genetics (2008). He was a significant founding member of the Genetics Society of Canada (1957). John was a driving force in UAlberta becoming the first Canadian University to boast a Genetics Department (1961). He played a major role in designing a graduate program that brought in students from across the globe. His thesis findings with bread wheat have been cited extensively, and continue to be used in plant genetics as a prototype for genetically dissecting a species. As Associate Dean, he counseled undergraduates on career paths in the Faculty of Science.

John co-authored several books, including Genetics: Questions & Problems (McGraw Hill Publishers, NY, USA, 1973), which was applauded as "probably the greatest aid to teaching genetics" (Griffiths, 1987).

In addition to three prestigious pedagogical awards - Best Teacher (Faculty of Science, 1981), Rutherford Teaching Award (1982), a 3M Teaching Fellowship (1988), John was awarded the Centennial Medal for outstanding service to the people of Alberta (2005).

John was a devoted husband and father. His encyclopedic knowledge of horticulture served as a conduit for his service to the community.

He established a scholarship in the Faculty of Science that recognises undergraduates for Excellence in Genetics (2010). UAlberta erected a ceremonial plaque in his honor on campus, at the entrance to Assiniboia Hall (2012). In 2017, he was recognised as an Honor alumnus alumnus by UAlberta's Alumni Association for his contributions to his profession, advancement of knowledge, and exemplary service to the community.

Adapted from words prepared by Ramesh Bhambhani, Alumni Council