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Cornell turfgrass expert Frank Rossi wins award for environmental stewardship

Golf organization recognizes Cornell faculty member for sustainability efforts

Frank Rossi examines turf with a student
Frank Rossi, associate professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science, was recognized for his exceptional environmental contribution to the game of golf. Above, Rossi, at left, examines turf with horticulture student Carson Letot at Bluegrass Lane Turf and Landscape Research Center. Photo by Matt Hayes / CALS.

Frank Rossi, Ph.D. '91, one of the world’s leading experts on turfgrass science, has been selected to receive the 2018 President's Award for Environmental Stewardship from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA).

Rossi, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science, will receive the award Feb. 6 at the 2018 Golf Industry Show in San Antonio.

The GCSAA President's Award for Environmental Stewardship was established in 1991 to recognize “an exceptional environmental contribution to the game of golf; a contribution that further exemplifies the golf course superintendent’s image as a steward of the land.”

“Dr. Rossi’s passion and hard work have helped drive the golf industry to a more environmentally focused future,” said GCSAA President Bill H. Maynard, CGCS. “He has not only been at the forefront of sustainability in the golf industry, but as a former superintendent himself, he has been a great source of information and support for superintendents around the world. We are pleased to honor him for his accomplishments.”

Rossi said, “Of course I am filled with gratitude to the GCSAA and all my colleagues and students over the years. I am quite humbled receiving this award. While I’ve spent my career working in the environmental area, I never thought or imagined it would ever be recognized.”

Growing up in New York City, mowing lawns in his neighborhood gave him a chance to escape the pavement and buildings and sparked his interest in the natural world. Rossi served as a consultant for the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens at Bethpage Black and developed sand and grass specifications for the 2016 Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro. He has also done consulting work for Central Park, the New York Yankees and the Green Bay Packers.

In 2014, Rossi was instrumental in the development of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for New York State Golf Courses. The project was initiated in 2012 by the Metropolitan Golf Course Superintendents Association, and Rossi served as the lead author of the guidelines. Nearly two decades earlier, while working as a turfgrass environmental specialist at Michigan State University, he was key to the creation of the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program, which was officially launched in 1998.

As a researcher, lecturer and former superintendent, Rossi’s excellence in the turf industry has been well-documented through the numerous awards he has received, including the Metropolitan GCSA Lifetime Achievement Award, the New York State Turfgrass Association’s Friend of the Green Industry, and the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association’s Environmental Communicator of the Year.

Rossi joined the Cornell faculity in 1996. His influence extends worldwide, both as a visiting professor at the Swedish Agricultural University in Alnarp, Sweden, and teaching courses in Denmark, Norway, England, Slovenia and Italy.  

“I am very fortunate to work in a field where every day there is a new challenge,” Rossi said. “Of course these high-profile venues and events leave little margin for error, but when you work closely with professional golf and sports turf managers, you know you have expert problem solvers, can-do individuals, who when they commit to something, they will make it happen.”