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Dr. Rubert Prevatt, Master of Horticulture, Dies at 89

Dr. Rubert Prevatt
Dr. Rubert Prevatt, professor emeritus of horticulture at FSC (center), is seen at his 2014 induction into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. At left is Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and at right is President Anne Kerr.

Apr 16, 2015

By Cary McMullen | Publications editor

Dr. Rubert W. Prevatt, John and Ruth Tyndall Professor of Citrus Sciences Emeritus, who taught an entire generation of citrus growers and managers in Florida, died April 13. He was 89.

Dr. Prevatt taught at FSC from 1970 to 1999, during which time he inspired dozens of students who are now leaders in Florida’s citrus industry. He was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in March 2014 for his contributions to the industry, and at the ceremony he was surrounded by more than 50 former students who expressed their appreciation for his dedication as a teacher. According to Hall of Fame officials, more than 60 percent of Florida citrus groves are managed by students of Dr. Prevatt.

“He will be missed,” said Josh Snively ʼ86, president of Florida Chemical Company. “He made an impact on my life and the lives of many other students. He was passionate about the citrus industry, and his fingerprint can be seen in all the major citrus regions around the world. More importantly, he truly cared for his students.”

Born in Seville, Fla., Dr. Prevatt was raised in a family that owned citrus groves, and he studied agriculture and soil chemistry at the University of Florida. He set up and ran the state’s first soil testing laboratory at the university in 1948. He worked for the Doctor Phillips Company, a commercial grower, completed his Ph.D. in soil science at the University of Florida, and worked as an agronomist for International Minerals Corporation (IMC) before joining the faculty of Florida Southern.

Known to his students as “Doc,” he was a much-beloved teacher, according to Dr. Malcolm Manners, who succeeded Dr. Prevatt as the Tyndall Professor of Citrus Sciences.

“I was always impressed by the extreme loyalty of Dr. Prevatt’s students to him. I also appreciated his philosophy of teaching—a leader in the area of engaged learning long before anyone was talking about the concept. He believed in getting the student really immersed in the citrus industry, through internships, summer jobs, guest speakers, field trips, and any other opportunity he could find to put the student in direct contact with all aspects of the citrus industry. That philosophy produced the truly expert leaders who manage that industry today,” he said.

His knowledge of citrus and soil sciences led to international renown. He taught at the University of Brisbane in Australia for six months and served with two organizations, Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance, traveling to Egypt, Spain, Brazil, Belize, and China to work with local farmers.

In addition to his expertise with citrus, Dr. Prevatt was a rose enthusiast who cultivated a new rose named for him. He was a director of and held life membership in the American Rose Society. He began the cultivation of the roses now located in Ruth’s Rose Garden at FSC, which contains some rare varieties.

Upon his induction into the Citrus Hall of Fame last year, Dr. Prevatt said, “I’d like to say I enjoyed every single one of my students. I’m glad I was able to have a little influence on their lives.”

His wife, Edna, preceded him in death just four months previously. He is survived by two daughters, Suzanne Trueblood ’75 MBA ’83 and Carol Sipe ’83; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.