Remembering the life of Dr. Robert Havener, former Director General of CIMMYT.
August 3rd was a sad day in the life of CIMMYT and for the world of agricultural research for development. Former Director General Robert D. Havener died in California at the age of 75. The Chair of the CIMMYT Board of Trustees, Dr. Alex McCalla, represented the center at the memorial service, held on August 20th in Los Olivos, California.
Dr. Havener was one of the true pioneers in the global agricultural research system, working for the world’s rural poor for more than five decades. He led CIMMYT from 1978 to 1985 as the center’s third Director General, bringing our center recognition as one of the leading international agricultural research organizations in the world. When he came, Dr. Norman Borlaug was director of the wheat program and Dr. Earnest Sprague the director of the maize program. During his leadership CIMMYT expanded its regional presence and strengthened the economics program. Dr. Havener believed that the program should not work in isolation but in tight integration with the main crop programs. Around CIMMYT he was known for his ability to make quick but sound judgments and for his office that was open to all, even the most junior scientist. With donors he was a forceful and successful advocate for CIMMYT and CIMMYT’s mission. He stewarded the center through a financial crisis in the 1980s and by the end of his term as Director General had increased dramatically the number of core donors.
Of course Robert Havener was more than just the former DG of CIMMYT. For 14 years he worked as a senior agricultural program officer for the Ford Foundation. He served as interim Director General at both CIAT (1994) and IRRI (1998) and was instrumental in the founding of ICARDA and ILRI. He served as Chair of the ICARDA Board of Trustees from 1999 to 2003. He was the founding President of the Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an advisor for the World Food Prize and sat on the Board of Directors of Sasakawa Africa Association / Global 2000 Program, whose president is Dr. Borlaug.
Dr. Havener was always a friend of CIMMYT, right to the end and could always be counted upon for wise council and sage advice. He followed with interest and passion the changes taking place at CIMMYT. Bob Havener devoted his life to making a difference for the rural poor. We are all diminished by his loss.