Joe Duich will be remembered for educating others about agronomics – and so much more

JOE DUICH, THE FAMED LONGTIME PROFESSOR of turfgrass science at Penn State University, died Oct. 11 at 85. The golf course industry has lost one of its titans.

Duich joined the Penn State agronomy department faculty in 1955. He taught thousands of students, many who went on to become golf course superintendents. Duich developed Penn State’s two-year technical program in golf turf management into an internationally recognized program.

Duich may be best known for breeding several groundbreaking turfgrass cultivars, including Penncross, Penneagle, Pennlinks, and the Penn A and G series of creeping bentgrasses. Penncross, which debuted in 1955, is still the top-selling bentgrass in the world.

Below, Duich’s former students and friends remember him:

DR. DUICH WAS MUCH MORE than my most meaningful professional mentor; he was a trusted friend. Over the years, Dr. Duich taught me countless valuable lessons, not all of which were agronomic in nature.

One of the most powerful and long lasting was during our first meeting, the first day of class at Penn State University in 1989. Dr. Duich entered the classroom without addressing the students or making any small talk and went straight to the chalkboard and drew a large circle. In that circle he added a small triangle. In that triangle, which comprised only about 10 percent of the total area of the circle, he wrote the word “turf.” On the other 90 percent of the circle he wrote the word “people.” My fellow students and I sat quietly as the world-renowned turfgrass professor turned and spoke for the first time. He said, “You have traveled from all over the world to attend this program with the goal of learning how to be a top golf course superintendent.” After a significant pause, he added, “Unfortunately, what I can teach you is only 10 percent of what you will need to know to be successful in this business. The other 90 percent is people skills, and those can’t always be taught.” We all stared in disbelief before he said, “As all of the students who preceded you, each of you will call me in less than five years and tell me I am correct.”

For me, it took less than two years. I had been a golf course superintendent for only a few months when a challenging nonagronomic issue arose. I thought I was going to lose my job so I called Dr. Duich for counsel. He assisted me that day, and he continued to call me almost daily for more than a month.

After graduation, I began developing a close personal relationship with my mentor, but this incident confirmed the depth of my connection and friendship with this wonderful man. Dr. Duich was my confidante, my teacher and my friend. I will miss him more than words can explain.

Darren Davis

Certified Golf Course Superintendent

Olde Florida Golf Club

Naples, Fla.


DR. DUICH WAS AN OVERACHIEVER in every single sense of the word. Once a Marine always a Marine, he was a taskmaster and expected the absolute most from you. I never felt like the grade was as important as the effort. Dr. Duich was a great leader, mentor, coach, innovator, researcher, husband, father and friend. He changed my life like he did with hundreds of other graduates. We will continue to work hard for you Dr. D and will strive hard to please you. Just like you lived your life we all will try to live ours: Work hard, work smart and enjoy the fruits of our labor. THANK YOU DR. D!

Matt Shaffer

Director of Golf Course Operations

Merion Golf Club


WHEN I FIRST MET DR. DUICH, (still hard to refer to him by his first name), I was 17 years old. On the first day of class for the winter course program for turfgrass management at Penn State in 1972, Dr. Duich asked all of the students to come to the blackboard and spell “aerifier.” After many failed attempts, he told us we were wrong, exposing us to his wry sense of humor. Aside from reading every periodical the man has ever written, most of my memories reside in the classroom. I can say he might be the best no-nonsense expositor of turf I’ve ever met, and I have used his name and reputation unashamedly to advance my career. Sorry this had to be posthumous. Thanks, Dr. Duich!

Tom Brown

Certified Golf Course Superintendent

Chesapeake Bay Golf Club

Rising Sun, Md.


DR. DUICH ENTERED MY LIFE IN 1967. I met him at the Penn State Turf Conference. In a meeting he would come on really tough, being a Marine and all that. But by the time the meeting was over he was real sweet. … He’d focus on something and he got it done. He wanted things to be done right and thoroughly. … He was a teacher first; that was his first love. He was revered.

Bill Rose

President

Tee-2-Green


DR. DUICH WAS INFLUENTIAL IN MY CAREER before I truly knew all of the influence he had on our industry. He once told me to never forget that “superintendents are often the creators of their own futility.” It took me several years and mistakes to understand the full value of that statement.

Nobody knew how to approach issues and challenges head-on like Dr. Joe. He developed and inspired some of the most influential practical approaches to turfgrass management that we are lucky enough to have learned. He will be sorely missed, and I’ll be honored to always know and share that his mentoring meant something great to me. I’m happy that the sun will never set on his influences, his grasses and his lessons.

Godspeed Dr. Duich!

Carmen Magro

Certified Golf Course Superintendent, Penn State University graduate, former Penn State instructor and director of the school’s golf course turfgrass management program


I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER OUR LAST DAY of class in 1975. Dr. Duich asked us to put away our notebooks, and he sat there and talked about life for us as superintendents. What concerned him was the high rate of divorce and alcoholism in our profession. He told us that we were the generation that could change that. He encouraged us to take a summer vacation and get away from the golf course. A lot of us had a look of bewilderment on our faces. His point was we had to delegate our authority and teach the people around us so we could get away and spend time with our families. If we couldn’t do that, he said we would fail as managers. I will never forget that day.

He was a great man who was willing to listen and help work through problems.

Jim Nicol

Retired Certified Golf Course Superintendent

EDITOR’S NOTE:

In memory of Dr. Duich, donations can be made to the Joseph M. Duich Scholarship fund. Checks payable to: The Musser International Turfgrass Foundation, P.O. Box 124, Sharon Center, Ohio 44274. Please note on check: Joseph M. Duich Scholarship fund.

 

Read more: Duich Taught People More Than Just Agronomics