Helene Dillard, a plant disease expert, associate dean and head of Cooperative Extension at Cornell, has been named the new dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California, Davis.
Dillard, a native Californian and UC Davis alumna, will assume leadership of the college on Jan. 27. UC Davis is ranked among the top agricultural and environmental research institutions in the world.
The college includes 330 faculty members, 800 staff, 5,800 undergraduate students in 29 majors, and 1,000 graduate students in 45 graduate groups and programs.
“The opportunity to serve as the next dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is an honor, and I am humbled to join this community,” Dillard said. “Renowned for excellence in cutting-edge research and innovative teaching and outreach, UC Davis faculty, staff and students lead the way in initiatives that address the key societal challenges inherent in issues of food production and food security, sustainable and healthy living, climate change and environmental stewardship.
“I am excited to build upon this legacy as well as foster continuing and further collaborations that develop solutions to the grand challenges and opportunities that we, as a global community, face,” she added.
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she received her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley in 1977. She continued her studies at UC Davis, where she earned a master’s degree in soil science in 1979 and a doctoral degree in plant pathology in 1984.
Upon graduating from UC Davis, she joined the faculty of the department of plant pathology at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y., a position which allowed her to devote half of her time to research and half to Extension responsibilities for vegetable crops. She was promoted to associate professor at Cornell in 1990 and to full professor in 1998.
Dillard was named associate director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2001 and was named director in 2002.
She currently oversees 1,700 employees and an annual system budget of approximately $120 million.
Since 2002, she also has served as associate dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Human Ecology.
This year, Dillard received the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Outstanding Faculty Award at Cornell and the New York Farmers Medal from the New York Farmers Association. In 2008, she was named a National Women of Color STEM All Star, in recognition of her accomplishments related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She was named a fellow of the American Phytopathological Society in 2006.
Dillard is an avid fisher and particularly enjoys catch-and-release fly-fishing with her husband, Victor, and their college-age son, Jamar.