‘There Is Too Much Of You Left Behind’

'There Is Too Much Of You Left Behind'

If he was your major professor, you are either very good or very bad!

This statement was uttered during a job interview of a young man upon graduation from Michigan State University. The young man was me. The major professor was Dr. Will Carlson. That was a few decades ago. In January, Will Carlson passed away.
 
I am sure every one of you reading this remembers someone who played a positive role in your life. Parents and family aside, if you were lucky, you found yourself in the shadow of a mentor or friend who helped you climb a stair or two toward the stage for which you were striving. I was fortunate Will Carlson was there for me.
 
In 1980, I had just graduated from the University of Guelph and had accepted a job in Ottawa. With my wife Susan and two children, we needed to get on with life. This miserly existence was getting old. For many reasons, however, we decided not to take the job and in July of that year, we were without a home or a job. We considered our options carefully, and although we were broke, the idea of continuing for a Ph.D. actually made sense. The problem was I had no place to go and application deadlines to graduate school had passed months ago. 
 
I had read a number of research papers during my master’s work at Guelph and had cited a couple by a W. Carlson at MSU. So I picked up the phone and asked if he was in the market for a grad student. No other place and no other person would have even seen me at that late date, but Will invited me to East Lansing and, as they say, “the rest is history.” 

A caricature of Allan, left, with his mentor, whom Allan
describes as an industry mover and shaker. 
 
I have always been thankful for his willingness to take that risk. It surely changed my life. It was certainly not a picnic, and being with him at that time was like being in a windstorm, a tsunami and an earthquake all rolled into one. Earning my doctorate was the easy part; surviving Will Carlson was far more challenging. But because of him, my horizons were broadened, and I learned there was nothing I could not do. So, like my mentor, I did it.
 
Will was a mover and a shaker. He moved people to give for projects like research greenhouses and the MSU Gardens. He moved the present forward by thinking of the future. He saw the future more clearly than anyone I met, including the future importance of these wimpy things called bedding plants.
 
Make no bones about it: Will’s foresight changed the landscape of the floriculture industry. In the late 1970s, he started a tiny grower organization called Bedding Plants Incorporated that soon became the cheerleader, the fundraiser and the research arm of the bedding plant industry. The early days were heady and I was indeed fortunate to see its rise–those people who worked with Will still talk about those days in almost spiritual terms.
 
Will was also a shaker–and although he had many attributes, learning when to stop shaking was not one of them. He was so focused he sometimes made unpopular decisions and without doubt upset some people and made others uncomfortable at times. I guess that is why people greeted me as they did during my memorable job interview. But what great leaders have not ruffled feathers along the way?
 
I was so fortunate to have visited Will in his home in East Lansing a few weeks before his death. He was certainly ill, but what a time we had. When his wife Barbara walked in on us, we were like little kids, eating one of Will’s prized lemons, juice running down our chins and laughing like all was right with the world. I wish you could have been perched atop my shoulder; you would have loved the view. 
 
He could relate stories, tell a joke, and oh my, could he write a column. We have all been the richer for Will’s thoughts in the magazine alone, and his overall contributions to the industry are priceless. He was a giant of a man and he shall be missed. However, as I attended his funeral, I looked over to him and thought: “You are not going anywhere, old friend. There is too much of you left behind in all of us.”

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selections Offers Improved Navigation

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant Breeding

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More
Latest Stories
all-america-selections-new-website-home-page

December 3, 2016

New Mobile Responsive Website From All-America Selectio…

All-America Selections has launched a newly redesigned and revamped mobile-responsive website that includes a more attractive design, enhanced search tools, and easier and simpler navigation.

Read More
Sea Breeze Catharanthus combo

December 2, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 2, 2016

Kelly Norris: How The “Me Too” Philosophy Affects Plant…

When you’re selling the exact same thing as everyone else, it’s unrealistic to expect customers to buy only from you.

Read More

November 29, 2016

How Changes In Plant Patent Law Could Affect Your Varie…

There is an ongoing discussion happening among plant genetics companies about the current laws and ethics of plant breeding, and what the future holds for the improved lawful protection of genetics.

Read More
endless-summer

November 29, 2016

Endless Summer Hydrangeas Will Soon Feature New Identit…

Bailey Nurseries, which first introduced the reblooming hydrangea a decade ago, says the new identity will feature a more contemporary look to appeal to current and future gardeners.

Read More
prince-tut-cyperus-grass-feature

November 28, 2016

Growing Tips For ‘Prince Tut’ Cyperus Grass

'Prince Tut’ from Proven Winners’ Graceful Grasses collection is versatile, working well in all container sizes with its columnar habit and dense canopy and filling out well in the landscape.

Read More
Sea breeze combo

November 26, 2016

Four Mixed Container Trends To Watch

Mixed containers are still one of the best-selling SKUs at retail. Pay attention to these four trends that are making their mark on multi-liner mixes and combination containers.

Read More
Begonia at Oklahoma State University field trials

November 26, 2016

2016 Oklahoma State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City.

Read More
Petunia 'Tidal Wave Cherry'

November 25, 2016

2016 North Dakota State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.

Read More
Scaevola 'Scala Bicolor Blue'

November 24, 2016

2016 North Carolina State University Field Trials Resul…

Check out the 2016 field trial results at North Carolina State University/J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC.

Read More
2016 Missouri Botanical Garden Flower Trials

November 23, 2016

2016 Missouri Botanical Garden Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO.

Read More
Mitchell’s Nursery & Greenhouse first caught the poinsettia bug in 1996, but the operation didn’t begin trialing the plant until 2004

November 21, 2016

Poinsettia Trials Across The Eastern U.S. To Take Place…

Poinsettia growers interested in keeping up with the latest variety and production trends have the chance to attend university open houses in New Hampshire, Louisiana, and Ohio.

Read More
Coleus 'Main Street River Walk'

November 21, 2016

2016 Michigan State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.

Read More
Field trials at Lucas Greenhouses

November 20, 2016

2016 Lucas Greenhouses Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 Field Trials results for Lucas Greenhouses in Monroeville, NJ.

Read More
Catharanthus 'Soiree Kawaii Coral'

November 19, 2016

Kansas State University 2016 Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trial results for Kansas State University in Lawrence, KS.

Read More
2016 Massachusetts Horticultural Society field trials

November 18, 2016

2016 Massachusetts Horticultural Society Field Trials R…

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society in Wellesley, MA.

Read More
verbena-endurascape

November 18, 2016

All-America Selections Announces Its 2017 Slate Of Vari…

Brokers, growers, mail order, and seed packet companies can purchase these varieties immediately. Retailers and consumers will find AAS Winners for sale for the 2017 gardening season as supply becomes available throughout the chain of distribution.

Read More
Vinca 'Valiant Lilac'

November 17, 2016

2016 Metrolina Greenhouses Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, NC.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]