Faculty Member Joe Powers Retires after 37 Years
Longtime faculty member Joe Powers retired this fall after 37 years in the School of Food Science at Washington State University. Known as a “Walking Science Wikipedia,” Powers will continue to contribute his extensive knowledge and experience in the department as a faculty emeritus.
When colleagues reflected on Joe Powers’ tenure at the school, it was clear that he was the “go to guy” for answers to scientific problems. “It doesn’t matter what question you ask, he has an answer,” said colleague Dr. Charles Edwards. “He’s not afraid of the hard question,” said Dr. Carolyn Ross, a fellow faculty member. “You can always count on him in any aspect of food science, he always has something to say.”
Faculty member Dr. Jeff Culbertson recently worked alongside Dr. Powers as a colleague, but he started at WSU as Powers’ first graduate student and research associate. Culbertson agrees with others saying, “I’ve never met a person who was more well-read, specifically about proteins. That may be the reason why there was never a place to sit in his office because of all the research papers and books.”
Former department chair Al McCurdy shared a similar impression of his time working with Powers. “Joe Powers was one of the most amiable, honest faculty members in the department during my tenure as a student, faculty member and department chair,” remembers McCurdy. “He always thought out problems extremely well and gave solid professional input. While Joe did not keep the most organized office to an outsiders view, when asked for a paper or book he knew where it was in his office.”
Dr. Powers began building his scientific knowledge by first earning his BS in Food Science at Oregon State University, his MS in Food Science at Washington State University under Dr. Nagel, and his PhD at UC Davis in Biochemistry. Powers began his work in the Department of Food Science in Prosser, Washington as an Extension Specialist and moved to a faculty appointment (37% teaching, 63% research) at the Pullman campus in 1980. He took a sabbatical in 1988, and went to Rutgers University in New Jersey where he worked for the Center for Advanced Food Technology in starch biosynthesis. “I learned a lot,” said Powers. “It was a cultural experience in and out of academia.”
While the well-trained scientist loved learning all he could about science, he also enjoyed instructing in the classroom. “I enjoyed teaching everything,” reflected Powers. The most notable is the 35 years he taught the Food Analysis course. Over his tenure, Powers advised and mentored over 20 graduate students and more than 20 undergraduates. He built a good relationship with many of his graduate students. “I still stay in contact with several individuals,” said Powers. “I enjoy keeping in touch with them.” He hopes to be remembered for being considerate to his students.
The last graduate student that he advised was Maria Rosales-Hartshorn, who worked under Dr. Powers for her Masters and Ph.D. “His excellent sense of humor always made our academic meetings exciting as well as productive,” said Rosales-Harshorn. “Dr. Powers is a walking library and most of the time I had to go back to my office immediately before I forgot everything we had discussed in our meetings to write it all down. I will always be thankful to Dr. Powers for being the most understanding person I have ever met.”
Dr. Powers met his wife, Nancy, of 38 years while getting his Ph.D. Together they raised three children, Carol, Ellyn, and Ted while he worked at Washington State University. Powers was recently honored at a retirement celebration in Pullman with his wife, co-workers, and friends in attendance.
“I plan to do a lot of fishing as well as some traveling through the western part of the United States and hopefully Alaska,” says Joe on his plans for retirement. Because Dr. Powers is the scholar that he is, he’ll also likely continue learning. And when he comes in contact with his colleagues and former students, they will continue to take those opportunities to glean as much knowledge as possible from the “Walking Science Wikipedia”.