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John Reitman

By John Reitman

Scholarship foundation at Penn State keeps Duich legacy alive


H. Burton Musser, left, and Joe Duich in the early days of bentgrass development.

Nearly a decade ago, Pat Duich had an idea to start a scholarship fund that would honor her late husband's name and legacy of training the next generation of golf course superintendents. To fulfill that goal, she turned to her husband's good friend; someone with a track record of managing a non-profit entity.

Today, Frank Dobie oversees the Joseph M. Duich Scholarship Fund, that for seven years has been helping students at Penn State pay for their education. The award, which started at $1,000 in 2016, has grown by $500 each year. This year's award recipient, Ryan Trudeau, the assistant superintendent at the Maidstone Club, received $3,500 to help complete his education at Penn State.

"The Duich Scholarship is awarded to the top graduating student in the Golf Course Turfgrass Management Program. The award is given to a student that exemplifies the values that Dr. Duich instilled in his students from the start of the program at Penn State," said John Kaminski, Ph.D., Director, Golf Course Turfgrass Management Program. "The large monetary portion of the award is also a great way to help the recent graduate as they start their careers.

Recipients are chosen based largely on their achievements in the classroom, said Dobie, himself a 1960 graduate of the two-year program at Penn State.

"My goal was for the award to be based on merit," Dobie said. "So, it usually comes in the student's second year of the program."

Duich was a professor and world-renown plant breeder at Penn State from 1955 until his retirement in 1991. He also developed the university's two-year program and the royalties off the turfgrasses he developed helped fund and build the turfgrass program at Penn State into what it is today. Throughout his career, he taught more than 6,000 students, including Dobie. He died in 2013, but his legacy lives on today.

Although the two became friends, Dobie said Duich was an intimidating presence in the classroom.

"Joe could scare the piss out of you," Dobie said.

That classroom demeanor was meant to prepare students to be successful in life as grass growers and as people.

"I remember walking the floor with him at the GCSAA show, and he would be stopped every five feet by someone, and he always remembered their names," Dobie said. "He told me never to pass by someone and not take time to acknowledge them."

When he was asked to set up the Duich scholarship fund, Dobie already had been president of the Musser Foundation since 1988. Named for the late H. Burton Musser, professor emeritus of agronomy at Penn State, The Musser International Turfgrass Foundation was organized as a 501(c)(3) organization to promote turfgrass as a profession, recognize the contributions of its namesake and promote learning at all levels in the turfgrass industry.

The Duich Scholarship Fund operates under the Musser Foundation umbrella.

"That way, we didn't have to set up a separate 501(c)(3)," Dobie said.

Also serving on the committee are Duich's widow Pat, son Michael, daughter Kathy Brennan, and superintendents Jeff Markow, Marsh Benson, Mark Kuhns, Matt Schaffer and Jerred Golden.

The fund, which generates income through donations and fundraisers has grown to more than $172,000 since it was established in 2014. 

"We've raised quite a bit through donations and fundraisers," Dobie said. "We spend only the interest and the dividends, not the principal." 

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