Cover photo for Dr. Albert (Al) Harlan Ellingboe, PhD.'s Obituary
Dr. Albert (Al) Harlan Ellingboe, PhD. Profile Photo

Dr. Albert (Al) Harlan Ellingboe, PhD.

April 3, 1931 — April 10, 2024


The youngest child of Albert Olaus Ellingboe and Anne Bergstrom Ellingboe, Al was born at home on the family farm in Lakeville, MN.  Al attended Lakeville High School, Mankato State University, and the University of Minnesota, where he received bachelor and doctoral degrees in Plant Pathology.  He was a member of the U Minnesota Chapter of the Farmhouse Fraternity.   He often expressed his deep appreciation for U Minnesota and Farmhouse for their support of his education.

Al met and married his wife and life-long partner Ann Elizabeth Rogers while at the University of Minnesota.  He completed a post-doctoral Fellowship at Harvard University and joined the faculty at Michigan State University (MSU) in 1960 with his growing family.  Daughter Lori was born in Cambridge, MA, while daughter Leah and sons Albert ‘Bert’ and Brian were born in East Lansing, MI.  Al and Ann were married for 65 years.  

In 1980 the family moved to San Carlos, CA, where he joined the International Plant Research Institute (IPRI) as Head of the Plant Pathology Group.  In 1983, he joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as a Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology with a joint appointment in the Department of Genetics.  Al was an international recognized authority on the genetics of host-pathogen interactions.   His research focused primarily on fungal pathogens of cereal grains including barley, wheat, corn, and rice.   Later in his career he established a breeding program to select for natural resistance to blight disease of Chestnut.  He was frequently invited to speak at national and international meetings where he, his students, and his postdoctoral fellows presented the results of their research.  

He was a caring mentor for numerous students and post-doctoral fellows, many of whom have remained in contact with him and Ann.  He received several prestigious academic honors during his career.  Most notably, he was elected as a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS) in 1978, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Plant Pathology (U Minnesota) in 2003, and he was honored with an Honorary Doctorate of Agricultural Sciences and Technologies from the University of Naples, Italy, in 1995.  He was the Director of Research for the American Chestnut Foundation for many years, and he and family planted numerous Chestnut trees at their Dodgeville ‘tree farm’.  Al traveled and worked on 6 different continents (alas, not Antarctica!) with his students and collaborators.  He was a member of the local Ygdrasil Literary Society.  

Al was a proud and loyal family man.  The family enjoyed camping every summer (often at the location of the APS meeting) and Christmas trips to Minnesota most years to visit the Ellingboe and Rogers families.  Al’s hobbies were his tractors and old cars at the Dodgeville farm, especially his 1933 B-Farmall tractor that he brought over from the family farm in Lakeville.  He loved giving tractor rides and sleigh rides on the farm to his children and grandchildren – all of whom he taught to drive a tractor.  He enjoyed canoeing in the Boundary Waters with family, Boy Scouts, and former colleagues from his MSU days.  Al was always ready to go driving on a road trip.  He spent many happy hours perusing maps and atlases of the U.S. and Australia.   He often preferred ‘the road less traveled’.  

Al is preceded in death by his parents, and sisters Alta Mahnken and Dorothy Olson.  Al is survived by his wife Ann, his children Lori, Leah (Jim), Bert (Sue), and Brian (Errin), his sister Hazel Tanger, and grandchildren Haakon, Vitya, Christine, Emily, Lachlan, Zoe, and Finn.  A Memorial Service is scheduled on Friday, April 19, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Madison:  Visitation at 10 am and Memorial Service at 11 am.  Memorials can be made to UW Foundation (with a note to direct as a tribute to the “Department of Plant Pathology Fund #132681310”; mail to UW Foundation, US Bank Lockbox Box 78807 Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807), Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (5701 Raymond Road, Madison, WI  53711), the Oakwood Foundation (6209 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705), or a charity of your choice.   

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