biology program receives scientist's life work

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Professor Donald Walker (right) and his student, look over a volume donated by Emory Simmons, renowned international scientist.

Higher education. It’s all about the sharing and passing down of knowledge from professor to student. It’s the selfless contribution of research to further interest in a specific field. Nowhere is this better illustrated than the recent donation of Dr. Emory G. Simmons’ entire mycological library to Donald Walker, Ph.D., at the College of Sciences biology program.

The branch of microbiology that deals with fungi, mycology is infinitely more interesting than collecting and growing mushrooms. Varieties of fungi are being used in the treatment of cancer, to filter wastewater, and, yes, in gourmet cooking. How a world-renowned mycologist became a benefactor to The University of Findlay is also an interesting story. 


UF’s “Fungi Guy”

If there’s a conduit that brought the donation to UF, it’s Dr. Walker, natural science professor and fungi expert. Walker joined the College of Sciences faculty in 2012 and quickly gained University notoriety for his Saturday morning mushroom “forays” to various northwest Ohio locations. Last fall, his classes roamed woods and fields in search of mushrooms and other fungi. Samples were brought back to the Davis Street Building, identified and displayed.

At age 92, Emory Simmons was ready to find a worthy recipient for his extensive library, containing several of his own, peer-reviewed publications along with specimens, and books dating from the late 1800’s. He heard about The University of Findlay from Walker’s former adviser, Amy Rossman. Simmons decided that someone who shared his passion should become the caretaker of his library and made arrangements to donate his entire collection to Walker at the University. 

“Two students, my wife and I took a van to Dr. Simmons’ home in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and loaded it up with books and articles, all meticulously cataloged,” said Walker. “We are planning another trip, and another vanload, in the near future.” 

Although Walker couldn’t estimate the monetary value of the contribution, he feels the educational value is priceless. 

“This is a top-tier collection,” Walker added. “I’d say it’s probably among the top ten mycological libraries in the country. There are books in several languages and even Dr. Simmons’ original manuscript for ‘Alternaria: An Identification Manual’ that was published in 2007.” 

An International Scientist 

The study of fungi has led Simmons on an exciting life’s journey across the U.S. and the globe. As director of the US Army Quartermaster Culture Collection of Fungi from 1953-74, Simmons traveled extensively throughout the world. He provided instruction, consulting and training courses at regional culture collections and research centers. For several decades Simmons was a visiting professor and researcher at the Department of Microbiology of Kasetsart University in Thailand. He also played a major role in the founding and development of the International Mycological Association. 

UF’s Donald Walker is also well known in the world of mycology. He has discovered 25 new species of fungi and is working with several biology faculty members on medical uses for fungi. “Our students learn a lot from our field trips and mushroom forays,” Walker added.

“They learn how to connect what they learn in the classroom with experiences in the field. There does seem to be a public fascination with mushrooms. They’ve always been sort of mysterious organisms.”