Norman E. Looney, a tireless advocate for horticulture in developing countries and founding member of the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s International Advisory Board, died March 26 in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was 77.
Looney served an unprecedented two terms as president of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), founded the Global Horticulture Initiative, and was instrumental in the Global Horticulture Assessment. He served on the Horticulture Innovation Lab’s International Advisory Board from 2009 to 2013. He received his Ph.D. in horticulture at Washington State University.
Trained first as an agricultural science educator and then as a plant physiologist and pomologist, Looney achieved early recognition for his
pioneering research on the biochemistry and physiology of fruit ripening. Over a 35-year career as a scientist and science manager with Canada’s Department of Agriculture Agri-Food, he published more than 70 scientific papers, numerous book chapters, and edited two pomology reference books.
Very active in several professional societies, Looney was recognized as a Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science in 1985, as a Life Member by the Canadian Society for Horticultural Science in 2002, and as a
Fellow of ISHS in 2006. He also received the Gold Veitch Memorial Medal from the Royal Horticultural Society in 2006.
He led a successful bid to host the 26th International Horticultural Congress in Toronto in 2002, with more than 2,500 participants from 80 countries. A key objective of the event was to call attention to the potential of high-value horticulture to reduce poverty and improve life quality of smallholder farmers in developing countries.
In 2002, he was also elected president of ISHS and served two terms until 2010. As ISHS president, he embraced country memberships from states in Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Northern Africa, Caucasus and South Asia that otherwise had not been part of the horticultural science development discourse.
He helped found the Global Horticulture Initiative in 2006 and served as chair of its board of directors. The Global Horticulture Initiative is a consortium of national and international organizations — including the Horticulture Innovation Lab — working to improve global health and prosperity through horticultural crops.
He is survived by his wife, Norah Keating; sister Ardis Swank and husband Russell; sister and brother-in-law Debbie and Rick Benard; children Pam Licopantis and husband Sakis, Tricia Braidwood-Looney and husband Brian, and Steven Looney; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for August in Summerland, British Columbia.