Valley Falls native honored by Emporia State for life’s work
Valley Falls native Dr. Robert Lonard, a research professor at the University of Texas, was honored recently by Emporia State University naming him a “Distinguished Botanist” for his life’s work.
As a young college student, Dr. Robert I. Lonard came to ESU from Valley Falls in 1960. His experiences in botany classes changed the direction of his life and guided him to a lifelong interest in plant taxonomy and plant ecology.
He was an undergraduate teaching assistant and later a graduate teaching assistant in Dr. James S. Wilson’s and Jack Carter’s plant labs. His friend and contemporary student was Melinda Denton.
He received a BSE degree in 1964 and an MS degree in 1966 from ESU, and he earned his Ph.D. in plant systematics from Texas A&M University in 1970. While at Texas A&M he was a GTA for botany and he served as assistant curator for the Tracy Herbarium.
Following graduation, Lonard accepted a faculty position at the University of Texas – Pan American in Edinburg, where he achieved the rank of full professor, served as department chair for two years, and, after a 34-year career, he retired in 2004.
He continues his appointment at the university as a research professor. The author of 89 scientific publications, he also secured 24 grants during his long career, and he successfully mentored a number of graduate students.
Dr. Lonard has won numerous awards for research and faculty excellence. He is the author of four books on plants, “Guide to the Grasses of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas” in 1993, “Field Guide to the Broad-leaved Herbaceous Plants of South Texas” in 1999, “Trees, Shrubs, and Cacti of South Texas” in 2003, and “Weeds in South Texas and Northern Mexico: a guide to identification” in 2007.
Lonard continues to be active in wetland research, flora and vegetation of southern Texas including barrier ecology, remote sensing of the Rio Grande floodplain vegetation, and analysis of resaca vegetation in southern Texas. He credits his student days at Emporia State for inspiring his distinguished career.
Geneva Lonard, the professor’s mother, resides in Valley Falls.
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