Plant pathologist Roy L. Millar dies at 93

Roy L. Millar, Ph.D. ’55, professor emeritus of plant pathology, died Aug. 18. He was 93.

Millar was born May 24, 1924, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. After serving as a pilot in World War II, he graduated from the University of Alberta with a bachelor’s in plant pathology in 1950 and a M.S. in 1952. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1955.

Millar began his career as a plant scientist with the Canadian Department of Agriculture, returning to Cornell in 1959, where he served as a faculty member in the Department of Plant Pathology. He became a U.S. citizen in 1970.

During his career at Cornell he served as president of the Northeastern American Phytopathological Society, as editor-in-chief of the journal Phytopathology and was elected a fellow of the society in 1973. Millar was chair of the Department of Plant Pathology at the time of his retirement in 1986.

Millar’s research concerned the physiology of disease, and he conducted foundational studies on pathology of forage legumes, focused on areas such as alfalfa phytoalexins and cyanogenesis of birdsfoot trefoil. His graduate students included Verna Higgins, M.S. ’66, Ph.D. ’69, longtime faculty member at the University of Toronto; Jim Stack, Ph.D. ’84 director of the Great Plains Diagnostic Network at Kansas State University; and Bill Fry, Ph.D. ’70 Cornell faculty member and former chair in the Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology in the School of Integrative Plant Science.

Millar was known for a course he taught on concepts in plant pathology. Gary Bergstrom, chair of the Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology Section, said that the breadth and rigor of the course had a lasting impact on a generation of plant pathologists trained at Cornell. Millar was also known for his great enthusiasm for Cornell hockey.

He is survived by four sons, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A private family graveside service and burial will take place in Ithaca at a later date.

Magdalen Lindeberg is assistant director at the School of Integrative Plant Science and senior research associate in the Section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.