A Lifetime of Achievement in the Life Sciences
Stan Welsh wrote the
book, literally, on Utah flora (912 pages, 1987), and is a giant in
botany and a legend at BYU. "Anyone fortunate enough to travel the road
with Stan has been treated to his superb knowledge of literally every
plant across the landscape," said Kent Crookston, dean of the College of
Biology and Agriculture, "He has never-ending stories of how these
plants featured in the settlement of the west. His sharp wit and
eloquence flow like a refreshing mountain spring."
Welsh said his most
significant accomplishment is "marrying [his] wife Stella and raising
eight children." He also likens his life to the story of a 95-year-old
man who was asked if he had lived in one location all of his life. The
man said, "Not yet!" Dr. Welsh feels the same— though he's accomplished
much since coming to BYU 45 years ago, he isn't finished, yet.
A master teacher, Welsh has taught 25,000 students in his career.
"When I came to BYU in
1960," said Welsh, "the entire plant collection was only 25,000 sheets.
Today we have nearly 500,000. In 1960 we had no flora that could be used
to identify plants indigenous to Utah. By 1974 we had put together a
key that would identify most plant species in the state and by 1987
published the first book that could identify the entire flora of the
state." With the help of graduate students, Welsh has published three
major flora books: Flora of Utah, Flora of Alaska, and Flora of the
Society Islands. In 1996, Welsh was awarded the Distinguished Service
Award from the Utah Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters.
Welsh is a collector
and a teacher, but one definitely takes priority. "I've personally
collected about 5,000 plants," he said, "but I've taught possibly 25,000
students." He believes in his students and hopes they will excel. "My
basic philosophy is lifting people up instead of putting them down,"
said Welsh. "I give them a jumping off point so they can exceed whatever
I may have done."
Life beyond the
As former director of Bean Life Science Museum, Dr. Welsh helped the museums' collection of plants grow from 25,000 sheets to more than 500,000 sheets.
Welsh has always urged
students to get out of the classroom and into nature. The summer after
he started teaching, Welsh took his first graduate student to the Beaver
Dam wash in southwestern Utah. Every year he went to the same place
with more students. "The land is unique because its unusual combination
of geology, climate, elevation, and water supply supports many trees,
shrubs, and wildlife," said Welsh. "It is a remarkable area of beauty
and biological diversity."
This unique land was
acquired by BYU in 1986 with funds provided by a very generous donor.
Welsh was a key player in the transaction and the first to oversee the
preserve. The 462-acre parcel—one of the West's most delicate
ecosystems—was named the Lytle Preserve after former owner Talmage
Lytle. Its numerous Mojave Desert plants and animals include
pomegranates, figs, watermelon, desert tortoise, sidewinder
rattlesnake, Gila monster, and 180 species of birds.
Welsh was director of
the Bean Life Science Museum from 1988 to 1994. The college named their
world-class herbarium after him.