361 years of wheat work

January 15, 2014

By Mike Listman/CIMMYT

From left to right: José Juan Ramírez (1974-2014); Hans Braun; John Snape; Roberto Javier Peña (1971-2013); Guillermo Ortiz-Ferrara (1971-2010); Sanjaya Rajaram; Alfredo Valencia (1975-2013); María Dolores Mir (1971-2013); María Luisa Gómez (1974-2013); José Daniel De Teodoro (1969- 2013); Vicente Morales(1969-2013) and Ramón Gil Montoya (1969-2011). Photo: Mike Listman

From left to right: José Juan Ramírez (1974-2014); Hans Braun; John Snape; Roberto Javier Peña (1971-2013); Guillermo Ortiz-Ferrara (1971-2010); Sanjaya Rajaram; Alfredo Valencia (1975-2013); María Dolores Mir (1971-2013); María Luisa Gómez (1974-2013); José Daniel De Teodoro (1969- 2013); Vicente Morales(1969-2013) and Ramón Gil Montoya (1969-2011). Photo: Mike Listman

About 100 CIMMYT staff, family and Science Week visitors gathered at CIMMYT headquarters on 6 December 2013 to honor and bid farewell to nine retiring or recently retired members of the Global Wheat Program (GWP). “These people together have more than 360 years of work at CIMMYT,” said Hans Braun, GWP director, speaking at a dinner to honor the retirees, who included scientists, field technicians, secretaries and an office assistant. “Several started here as early as 1969. For some, this means having helped grow 80 cycles of wheat — not many outside of CIMMYT could say that. On behalf of CIMMYT and the wheat farmers of the world, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your many contributions.”

The retirees had their contributions recognized through the bestowal of the GWP’s Yaqui Indian Award “that will identify you forever as a pillar of the wheat community,” Braun said. Wheat quality researcher Peña Bautista, who played a crucial role in strengthening CIMMYT’s relationship with Mexico, said he thought of the GWP as his family. “I love this work and if I were born again I would do the same thing with the same passion,” he said.

Ortíz-Ferrara, who worked for 35 years in wheat research before changing crops three years ago to lead CIMMYT’s Hill Maize Research Project in Nepal, recounted working under six CIMMYT directors general and five wheat directors, but said he especially recognized the behind-the- scenes contributions of support staff. “It’s beautiful to see how we have worked together and have been recognized with many awards from national programs,” he said.

Sanjaya Rajaram and Ramón Gil Montoya attend the event. Photo: Mike Listman

Sanjaya Rajaram and Ramón Gil Montoya attend the event. Photo: Mike Listman

Special guest Sanjaya Rajaram, former GWP director and CIMMYT distinguished scientist, congratulated the group and emphasized the importance of continuity in GWP work. “Just remember that your efforts have in one way or another translated into removing misery in many parts of the world,” he said.

Many of the retirees have memories of CIMMYT’s early days. Field technician Gil Montoya was with Dr. Norman E. Borlaug at CIMMYT’s Toluca research station when Borlaug received the news of his 1970 Nobel Prize. “His reaction surprised many of us —he took it calmly and said it might not even be true,” Montoya said. “When the media began to arrive a little later, Borlaug complained that they were distracting him from his work.”

Mir Rodríguez, who worked as a GWP secretary, was grateful for her professional development over 42 years at CIMMYT. “Thanks for what you’ve taught me,” she said, “and I carry you all in my heart.”


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