1993 Recipient of the Arthur T. Potts Award
Dr. John E. Fucik
John E. Fucik was born in 1928 in Waukegan, Illinois. He grew up and attended Waukegan High School where he graduated with the Class of 1945. During his teens, John worked as a farm hand every summer, strengthening his childhood-acquired love of agriculture. Upon graduation from the high school John enrolled in agriculture at the University of Illinois where he obtained his Bachelors of Science degree in General Agriculture in 1949. After graduation he worked for two years as production assistant with Pfister Associated Growers, a hybrid seed company, in Aurora, Illinois. John was then called to active duty for two years with the U.S. reconnaissance unit in Europe. He holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, after spending some additional 21 years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
After military service, John returned to graduate school at the University of Illinois, earning a Masters of Science in Agronomy in 1957 and a doctorate (PhD) in Horticulture in 1963. His PhD research dealt with calcium and manganese nutrition of apple trees in which he employed innovative water culture techniques for growing the plants.
In 1956 John married the former Naomi Brausch of Grayslake, llllinois. They have three children: Trudy Martinez, Tim and Toby Fucik plus four grandchildren. During his graduate study, John held a full time position of research associate with the University of Illinois’s Department of Horticulture. He continued in that position until 1965 when he became a staff member of the Texas A&I University Citrus Center in Weslaco, Texas as Assistant Professor in Horticulture. John has been promoted in subsequent years to the rank of Associate and finally Full Professor.
John’s research interests include citrus fruit and tree growth, as influenced by climate, hedging and topping, orchard production, such as seed germination and rooting of hardwood cuttings. The results of John’s long term experiments resulted in much higher planting densities currently practiced by Valley growers and in achieving higher and earlier returns. Also, John has significantly contributed to present knowledge on citrus tree size control by means of pruning and growth regulators. Again, his hedging and topping recommendations allow the growers to improve economic returns. His efforts are recognized internationally in the form of an ivitation to deliver a keynote presentation to the 1978 International Citrus Congress in Sydney, Australia. Over the years, John has been an active member of the Citrus Center’s research team involved in freeze protection projects, e.g., heating citrus orchards with various fossil fuels and tree wraps. The latter are still widely used by the industry. John’s extensive knowledge of citrus enabled him to spend two years in Jordan where, under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development, he was involved in developing a citrus research program for the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture.
Over a period of 27 years, helping Valley citrus growers has been John’s foremost priority. Often it was a personal visit to an orchard, a radio show, or a telephone conversation with a grower. John made and continues to make a major contribution to the establishment and evolution of the current tree and crop insurance program, availability of which is of strategic importance to the industry. He has developed procedures for federal agencies and the insurance industry to assess tree damage after the freezes of 1983 and 1989, and has provided the guidance to asses the value of a citrus tree for tax purposes. The list of his valuable contributions to the industry is impressive indeed.
In addition to his research and extension work, John has always been an enthusiast of horticultural education. For over 27 years he has taught a general horticulture course at the Citrus Center in Weslaco. His understanding of the local climatic and edaphic conditions and his extensive horticulture experience uniquely qualify him to embark on the writing of a book on Valley gardening sponsored by the Valley Garden Club.
John has published over 52 technical papers in addition to numerous articles and pamphlets on various aspects of citrus production. He is a member of the American Society for Horticultural Science, International Society of Citriculture. International Society for Horticultural Science, and Plant Growth Regulator Society of America. He is also an active member of the Rio Grande Valley Horticultural Society serving as its past President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Associate Editor.
John’s horticultural interest and activities are by no means confined to citriculture. He has done research on adaptability of various turf grasses to the local climatic conditions and is very involved in projects concerned with beautification of the Valley. He has written many pamphlets on ornamental landscaping and developed numerous landscape designs often utilizing native plants, as exemplified by the grounds aroung the USDA building complex and the Texas A&I Citrus Center in Weslaco. John has helped the Highway Department on the selection of native plants for planting along state highways and is involved in a sweeping plan to beautify the highway approaches to the Valley. He is the current Vice Chairman of the Valley Arbor Day Program and President of the Valley’s Native Plant Project.
Since John and Naomi’s arrival in the Valley in 1965, the Fuciks have resided in Weslaco and only recently moved to South Padre Island. John has always been very active in various civic and professional organizations. He is a funder and first president of the Native Plant Project in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, a current board member of the Valley Nature Center, and a life member of the Valley Land Fund which is devoted to preserving Valley habitat areas. He has been a driving force behind the Weslaco Habitat Ordinance which recently has been passed. John is the past Weslaco Housing Authority Chairman, president of Weslaco P.T.A., Weslaco Chairman of the Salvation Army Unit, Webelos leader, Cub Pack 41 leader, Weslaco Tower Theater board member and occasional actor, Little League ground keeper, activist of the Weslaco Aquatic Team Swim Club, and has served on many Weslaco Chamber of Commerce Projects. John and Naomi, for many years have been members of the First Presbyterian Church in Weslaco, but now attend the South Padre Island United Methodist Church where John continues his Sunday teaching tradition of 36 years, 14 years of which as a church school superintendent. In recognition of his many civic activities, John was selected as the Central Valley Citizen of the Week in 1984, and in the past was nominated for the Weslaco Man of the Year. On a more personal note, everyone who knows John delights in his sense of humor and his ever present upbeat approach to life. He is a genuinely cheerful and optimistic man. It is an experience to be around him. His interests are so broad that you can talk to him about science, plants, music, literature, politics, or distant cultures. Or if you wish, you can try a set of tennis, handball or a round of bridge. Those who have tried him will attest that he is a formidable opponent.
This Society honors Dr. John E. Fucik for his contributions to citrus and horticultural research, extension, and education which has greatly benefited not only the people in the Rio Grande Valley but all of Texas and other parts of the world. We also honor him for his service to the Citrus Industry and the Rio Grande Valley Horticultural Society. (D.S., 1993)