In Memoriam - Rogers McVaugh - 1909-2009

Posted: 9/24/2009

Rogers McVaugh was internationally renowned for his expertise in Compositae, Myrtaceae, Campanulaceae, woody Rosaceae, and the flora of Mexico, as well as botanical history and nomenclature. The genera Mcvaughia, Macvaughiella, and Chamguava are named in his honor.

“Rog,” as he was known to his friends, began his association with the University of Michigan in the Department of Botany and Herbarium in 1946, following appointments at the University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was Curator of Vascular Plants from 1946 until 1979, the year of his retirement, and Director of the Herbarium from 1972 until 1975. He was named Harley Harris Bartlett Professor of Botany in 1974.

His focus on the flora of western Mexico and collaboration with his former student William R. Anderson culminated in the acclaimed series “Flora Novo-Galiciana.” Owing to Rog’s prodigious field work and expertise in neotropical families, which brought ceaseless gifts for determination from other collectors, the University of Michigan Herbarium is a treasure trove for plants of Mexico and the families that were his specialty.

In addition to teaching and supervising graduate students, he was active in various botanical societies. Most notably, he was a council member (1950-58) and president (1956) of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, and vice-president (1969-72) and president (1972-75) of the International Association for Plant Taxonomy, which marked his retirement with a Festschrift in 1979 (Taxon vol. 28). For the IAPT he served for many years on nomenclature committees and also on the editorial committee for theInternational Code of Botanical Nomenclature (1964-75).

Rog received numerous honors for his outstanding scholarly contributions, including the Merit Award (1977) and the Centennial Award (2006) from the Botanical Society of America, the Gold Medal for “Mérito Botánico" from the Sociedad Botánica de México (1978), the Henry Allan Gleason Award from the New York Botanical Garden(1984), and the Millennium Medal from the International Association for Plant Taxonomy at the International Botanical Congress in 1999. He was also the first recipient of the Asa Gray Award (American Society of Plant Taxonomists, 1984), the Luz María Villarreal de Puga Medal (University of Guadalajara, 1993), and the Cuatrecasas Medal for Excellence in Tropical Botany (Smithsonian Institution, 2001). In 2004, his students and colleagues created the “Rogers McVaugh Graduate Student Research Grant Fund,” administered by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, which presents a yearly grant to a student in plant systematics.

Rog remained active in research throughout his retirement and, following his move to Chapel Hill in 1980, he was appointed Research Professor of Botany at the University of North Carolina and Adjunct Research Scientist at the Hunt Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. His relatives and friends gathered for a joyous celebration of his 100th birthday in June. Now we mourn losing a friend, mentor, and great botanist.