Des Layne

Des Layne

Dr. Desmond Layne, hired by Washington State University three years ago as its tree fruit extension leader, has moved from Wenatchee to the Pullman campus to take a new administrative position affective September 1.

Layne has been named director of the Agricultural and Food Systems and Integrated Plant Sciences programs, a position previously held by Dr. Kim Kidwell, who also served as associate dean for Academic Programs in the College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

A number of faculty have changed their positions as a result of the sudden death in June of university President Elson Floyd. Dr. Dan Bernardo, previously provost, has been serving as interim president. Dr. Ron Mittelhammer, previously dean of the College of Agriculture, has become acting co-provost, and Kidwell became acting dean of the college.

Kidwell said the university had been thinking for some time of appointing a full-time director of AFS and IPS programs, which now have more than 400 students. After Kidwell moved to acting dean, the decision was made to hire Layne as director instead of moving someone temporarily into her place, which helped stop the domino effect. His responsibilities include teaching, curriculum development, and program assessment.

Layne’s tree fruit extension position, an endowed chair based at the Wenatchee Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, was partially funded by the tree fruit industry. Although Layne will continue be involved in extension, working with researchers in Pullman, his position will no longer be supported with industry endowment funds, Kidwell said. WSU will work with the WSU Tree Fruit Endowment Advisory Committee to decide whether the endowment extension position will be filled.

Jake Gutzwiler, a member of the advisory committee, said the committee typically meets three or four times between October and March. In the coming months, committee members will discuss priority positions for the tree fruit industry. The fact that the endowed extension position is vacant does not necessarily it will be the first to be filled, he said. Positions are prioritized based on the current needs of the industry.

“As the needs change, those endowment dollars can change direction,” Gutzwiler said.

The committee has identified the need for an endowed chair in postharvest systems, an endowed chair in soils, and an endowed postharvest technology transfer (extension) position.

Although the tree fruit industry provides financial support for the positions, WSU pays for salaries and benefits, so WSU needs to have funds available in order to fill a position, he said.

Layne was state fruit specialist and state extension program team leader for horticulture at Clemson University in South Carolina before joining WSU in 2012. He has a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and a master’s degree and doctorate in pomology from Michigan State University.