willard's Story

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CUMBERLAND Willard was born on Feb. 18 1925, in Marshalltown, Iowa. He joined the US Army during World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge during his service period 1943-1946. He fought as a 99th Infantry Division sniper squad leader Sergeant with 3 battle stars and the Purple Heart in Belgium and Germany. After discharge from the Army (1943-1946) he earned a B.S. from the University of Iowa, an M.S. degree from Iowa, and a Ph.D. from Rutgers University in New Jersey in 1951. He then worked for the National Research Council of Canada in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. His specialty was industrial microbiology. Dr. Taber was the first to discover the hallucinogenic principle in Morning Glory plants. While at Rutgers he was a student of Nobel Prize Winner Dr. S. Waksman (who discovered the first antibiotic that saved millions of lives from early death and amputations). For 30+ years Willard was a Professor of Biology at Texas A&M University in College Station. Willard also discovered several antibiotics. As a Professor at Texas A&M he taught thousands of students in general Microbiology as well as advanced undergraduate classes and graduate classes. He had wide ranging teaching and educational responsibilities with international and US students while his wife Ruth also traveled overseas under the auspices of the US Agency for International Development. They complemented each other and worked in synergy.
Willard was a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AlCHE), Society of Industrial Microbiology (SIM), National Rifle Association (NRA), and the Republican Party. His wife preceding him was Texas A&M University Professor Ruth Ann Taber (B.S. West Virginia University, M.S. University of Saskatchewan, Canada). Their sons are Dr. Willard Rodman Taber, (Ph.D. Texas A&M University, Computer Science), the late Dan Allen Taber, (B.S., Computer Science, University of Texas), and Professor Stephen Welton Taber, (Ph.D. Biology, University of Texas), now Professor of Biology at Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan.
Ruth passed in 2011. Willard remarried in 2016 to Sherry Mellott.
Willard always tried to educate students from the start. As a grade 5 child (Rod) I can remember him teaching me to identify chemicals in the lab with paper chromatography. Much later, he taught me how to estimate protein in plant leaves. He knew a lot and he always had the time to explain. When asked he gave informative mushroom lectures for the forest rangers in local forests and parks. He was a great teacher and family man. He will be sorely missed. Willard's survivors would appreciate contributions to dementia-oriented research (Alzheimer's) and/or St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Published on September 26, 2017
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