This month in IRRI history: August

Author // Gene Hettel Categories // IRRI History

In case you did not see the announcement from ITS in late July, IRRI staff members can now search nearly 5,000 publication items by year, author, title keyword, and source—and most can be accessed as full text. There are a number of publications from IRRI's early years, which help to add more detail to the Institute’s rich history. For example, as Marco Van Den Berg points out, you can take a look at seminar notes by Dr. T.T. Chang given on 16 March 1963. Yes, indeed, there were Saturday seminars back in those days! Go ahead and give it a try at https://sites.google.com/a/irri.org/publications-by-irri-staff/home. Congrats to Marco and ITS for introducing this new feature. If non-IRRI staff members not on the network would like copies of certain items, I’m sure the ITS staff would be happy to oblige to give access when allowable. Such access will require a Google account.

If there is a slow month at IRRI, it probably indeed is August when many staff members are just starting to come back to HQ from their well-deserved home leave. But still, August has had its share of happenings.


Bob Havener passes away—right man at the right time for IRRI

Bob Havener
Photo source: CGIAR News

Robert Dale “Bob” Havener passed away in his sleep on the evening of 3 August 2005 at his home in Solvang, California. He had celebrated his 75th birthday with family and friends only 10 days earlier on 24 July. He was interim director general of IRRI for 8 months in 1998; he was a great colleague and friend to many staff members.

A memorial service in his honor was held on 9 August 2005 at IRRI in the auditorium in Chandler Hall. After the service, a tree was planted in Bob’s memory on "DG Row" along Pili Drive. On 7 April 2006, at the conclusion of the recent IRRI Board meeting, the auditorium in Chandler Hall was officially named the Robert D. Havener Auditorium in his honor.

Havener Auditorium Plaque
The plaque at the entrance reads: "Dedicated with gratitude, to a true visionary, humanitarian, and friend. For more than five decades, his resourceful leadership and communication skills at IRRI and other institutions created fertile environments in which scientific ideas and research programs flourished, ultimately leading to increased food security worldwide. He transcended cultures, religions, and generations. With his actions and wise counsel, Bob touched millions of people. His steady hand, wisdom, sound judgment, patience, humility, and—above all—compassion were critical to guiding IRRI through challenging times back in 1998." It was my pleasure to present to his wife Liz a miniature replicate of the plaque later during the summer of 2006 at her home in California.

Gene Hettel presents a miniature replicate of the plaque to Bob Havener's wife

Many of us will never forget Bob's calm demeanor and quick decision making ability. He was the right man at the right time for IRRI, in my opinion. View some tributes here.

You can read about the handover ceremony from Dr. Havener to new DG Ron Cantrell, which took place on 31 August 1998, in the August-September 1998 issue of Sandiwa. During the ceremony, Dr. Havener presented Dr. Cantrell with gifts that represented the tasks that would face him as the new DG. The gifts included a pencil sketch of rice planting in the Philippines; a golden rice bowl with five pieces of firewood that represent the sectors supporting IRRI's work—farmers, the donor community, NGOs, the NARES, and the private sector; a Banaue rice god, a symbol of good luck and abundant harvest; and, last but not least, the IRRI flag. I wonder what Bob Zeigler might be passing on to new IRRI DG Matthew Morell later in December this year! See the answer here.


IRRI and Vo-Tong Xuan receive Ramon Magsaysay Awards for International Understanding and Government Service, respectively

RMAF logoSince 31 August 1958, the Ramon Magsaysay Awards have been given to persons and organizations who address issues of human development in Asia with courage and creativity and, in doing so, have made contributions which have transformed their societies for the better.

On 31 August 1969, IRRI received the award for International Understanding with the following opening wording in the citation: "Distilling more than three millennia of accumulated insight in cultivating man's leading cereal crop, the International Rice Research Institute, with its creation of "miracle rice," inaugurated a "Green Revolution," promising nearly one-half of humanity the prospect of sufficiency in its staple food."

IRRI DG Robert Chandler, Jr., responded, in part, "For the International Rice Research Institute, which as director I have the privilege to represent, this is a day of pride, of gratitude, and of renewed dedication. The Ramon Magsaysay Award is an honor of such consequence that those upon whom it is bestowed cannot but be subdued by a deepened sense of their responsibilities to mankind and stimulated by an active need to find new ways in which to serve. Thus, the Award simultaneously endows the recipients with historic recognition and confronts them with a subtle challenge. Read more of the citation and IRRI’s response.

On 31 August 1993, Vo-Tong Xuan, IRRI trustee, research fellow, and great Vietnamese friend of IRRI, won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service. The following opening wording was in the citation: "Everywhere in Asia, farmers are called upon not only to feed their growing nations but also to produce rice and other commodities for export. In Vietnam, efforts to meet this challenge are complicated by the troubling legacies of recent war and economic policies that stifled individual enterprise and inadvertently limited growth. Helping Vietnam's farmers to overcome these impediments, and to thrive, has been the life's work of Vo-Tong Xuan."

Dr. Xuan responded, in part, "This is a great moment for me to be bestowed this award named after the great president of the Philippines, Ramon Magsaysay. President Magsaysay won the hearts of the Filipino people because "he cared for all people as individuals and believed in their dignity and importance." His great ideals inspired my own thinking during my student days at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños during the 1960s. With my wife, I strove to belong to the circle of those who place the interests of the people above all things in life." Read more of the citation and Dr. Xuan’s response.

Other notable Magsaysay Award winners have included the Dalai Lama (1959); Mother Teresa (1962); CARE (1968); UPLB (1977), Fazle Abed Hasan (Bangladesh, 1980), International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR, 1986); Yunus, Muhammad (Bangladesh, 1984); and Corazon Aquino (Philippines, 1998).


See other notable activities and events in August on This week in IRRI history.


About the Author

Gene Hettel

Gene Hettel

Gene Hettel is an IRRI historian and editor-in-chief of Rice Today.

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