Former UMaine professor Alford dies

Posted Feb. 12, 2009, at 10:20 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — A former University of Maine professor of entomology who was a driving force in the founding of the Patch Center and served in several other roles during his 26 years on campus, died Monday at Hospice Ministries in Ridgeland, Miss.

Arthur Randall “Randy” Alford, 55, who joined the UMaine faculty in 1982, suffered from multiple sclerosis. He left UMaine in 2007 because of his illness.

Alford’s research background and interest were in the areas of insect-plant relationships and insect chemical ecology, according to a profile on the UMaine School of Biology and Ecology Web site. His research projects included development of plant-produced chemicals as insect pest management tools against insect pests such as the striped cucumber beetle, Colorado potato beetle, Mexican bean beetle, green peach aphid and velvetbean caterpillar.

He was the last chair of the entomology department before it was merged into the School of Biology and Ecology.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Alford was one of a group of supporters who persuaded the University of Maine not to demolish the Edith Marion Patch House, which was the former home of Patch, UMaine’s first woman entomologist who was considered the world’s leading authority on aphids in the first half of the 20th century.

The house now is known as the Dr. Edith Marion Patch Center for Entomology, the Environment and Education.

Instrumental in establishing UMaine’s Sustainable Agriculture Program, Alford served as department chair for five years, was involved in honors education and worked as a faculty mentor in the Upward Bound Program. He was also a cooperating professor of forest ecosystem science.

Alford was dedicated to education and teaching, said Ellie Groden, the chair of the School of Biology and Ecology.

“One thing that was particularly admirable about Randy was as his disease progressed and he was less able to do some of the field research and activities he had been involved in previously, he dedicated more energy into students and teaching,” she said. “Some individuals might just back away and reduce their level of involve-ment, but he made an effort to expand into areas he could do.”

Alford, who was born in Baton Rouge, La., earned his degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and Louisiana State. He had a one-year appointment as a research entomologist in the chemistry department of the New Brunswick Research and Productivity Council in Fredericton, New Brunswick, before starting at UMaine.

Alford also helped found, with his wife, Jo Carol Alford, the Southern Supper Club, an Orono-based group of native Southerners who gathered occasionally for meals in or out.

He is survived by his wife, Jo Carol Alford, two sons, a daughter and a stepdaughter.

The family asks in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to the Friends of Dr. Edith Marion Patch by mailing donations to Dr. Nancy MacKnight, 52 Penobscot St., Orono 04473. Donations may be made payable to the University of Maine Foundation with Friends of Dr. Patch-Dr. Alford in the memo line.

Alford’s funeral will be held Saturday in Ridgeland, Miss.

jbloch@bangordailynews.net

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