Office Space: Malcolm Manners, Ph.D.

Nov 2, 2022

by FSC Staff

In the 1980s, Dr. Malcolm Manners had an office in the Polk Science Building.

He later moved to the first floor of the Jack M. Berry Citrus Building, then back to the Polk Science Building temporarily during a remodel, and now he is starting his second year in office 303 in the Jack M. Berry Citrus Building. One look at his office décor and there is no need to guess what his interests are. The walls are filled with vivid photos of flowers, plants, citrus trees, and people from around the world.

Florida Southern College started its citrus science program in the 1940s. Dr. Manners started at the College in 1981, with 2022 being his 42nd year. As a Professor of Citrus Science, Program Coordinator, and John and Ruth Tyndall Chair in Citrus Sciences, Dr. Manners is a wealth of knowledge. Tropical fruit is his specialty, and he manages the greenhouses, the citrus trees, and the rose gardens on campus.

The courses Dr. Manners is teaching this year are HRT 1000 (Plants and Society - a general education course, offering credit for Natural World and Social World), HRT 3302 (Plant Nutrition), HRT 3326 (Tropical and Subtropical Fruits), HRT 2100 (Introduction to Horticultural Science), and CIT 4303 (Citrus Pests and Diseases).

In 2013, Dr. Manners was honored as the “Great Rosarian of the World” after extensive and renowned work with roses. He worked to develop a program, which involved a heating process curing roses of a virus complex called rose mosaic disease. Eventually, this led to a specialization in antique or “heritage” roses (varieties dating before 1867). It led to a program in 1984 that focused on the procedure that enabled FSC to equip many countries with healthy plants.

“We’re [FSC] still the main providers of virus-free rose materials to the global nursery industry for older varieties,” Dr. Manners said.

Dr. Manners has been recognized by several elite organizations for his work with roses. In addition to being named “Great Rosarian,” he has also received the President’s Volunteer Service Award on behalf of the President of the United States. The professor earned the honor because of his volunteer consulting about edible crops (mainly citrus and tropical fruit) in African countries and Bangladesh. He also received a Certificate of Merit from the American Rose Society. His work is referenced in multiple books and publications.

Aerial view of Berlin

“I’ve traveled all over the world,” Dr. Manners said. “I do a lot of volunteer consulting with USAID that goes to developing countries. They have a program called Farmer-to-Farmer that takes expertise from the U.S. to places where it’s needed to train people to grow better crops and they’ll be able to feed their kids. So, I’ve done a lot of work in Southern Asia and African countries. So, a lot of the pictures that I have are from those places.”

beautiful people wall

Dr. Manners’ photos are reminders of his travels and who he refers to as “beautiful people” he has met, some from Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Senegal, Nigeria, and Kyrgyzstan. He encountered people in Ethiopia who he said he knew were actively starving. While acknowledging he could not solve all the problems he encountered in countries like Ethiopia, the professor feels good being able to teach people how to grow food to survive.

“I’m blessed with that talent and the skills, so I’m delighted to do that,” Dr. Manners said. “And in the process, I get to see parts of the world that most people never get to see. And it’s great for teaching too. I use a lot of pictures from those trips in my classes.”

Most of the people Dr. Manners works with during his volunteer work do not have access to technology. He is able to stay in touch with his translators in Ethiopia, India, and Senegal through Facebook. They have remained friends over the years.

photo wall

While Dr. Manners’ numerous travels have produced many of the colorful photos that populate his office walls, not all the photos in the office are international. His family photos are his favorite items in his office. They include pictures of his parents and his grandparents. There are also photos of the aurora borealis (the northern lights) that the professor took while visiting Alaska.

There is a seemingly unassuming picture hanging on the wall of the professor’s office. The story behind it speaks to the character of Dr. Manners.

As he was preparing to catch a flight from the South Asian country of Bangladesh, one of the families that he had spent time with presented him with a framed picture. Dr. Manners wanted to explain that he would not be allowed to take a framed picture on the airplane he was about to board, but his translator informed him that not accepting the picture would be an insult to the family. Dr. Manners accepted the gift, then took the picture into the airport restroom and removed it from the frame. With no other choice, he abandoned the glass part of the frame in the restroom, carefully disassembled the wooden part of the frame, and placed it along with the picture in one of his bags. After he arrived in the United States, he had the frame reassembled as accurately as possible with the picture safely behind new glass. As promised, Dr. Manners sent the Bangladeshi family a photo of the picture hanging in his office.

Shark Teeth

Other notable items in the professor’s office include his “Baseball Fan of the Year” award from one of the FSC baseball teams, shark’s teeth from a phosphate mine that were given to him by a student, and wooden dynamite crates that were used as shelves by his grandmother. The crates were once a part of a homemade fruit cupboard in his grandparent’s basement during the 1920s. His grandfather worked with dynamite, so his grandmother repurposed the dynamite crates to store her fruit preserves.

“I think my office space reflects aspects of my life, places I've been and worked, people I've met, fascinating plants I've become familiar with,” Dr. Manners said.  “I have tried to make it an interesting, friendly place, where students and others will feel welcomed.”

Dr. Manners is happy with his choice to become a professor. “I think I got the idea probably while I was an undergraduate college student,” he said. “I had several professors who deeply impressed me, not only with their ability to teach, but with their passion for teaching.”

While he was in graduate school, he realized becoming a college professor was an alternative to working as a researcher. FSC has benefited greatly from that decision.

Read more about Dr. Manners’ work with roses here: https://www.flsouthern.edu/news/archived/2015/faculty/rosy-gardens-in-the-most-beautiful-campus.aspx