MSU receives $1 million lead gift to endow a new turfgrass pathology chair

A $1 million gift from the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation to the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources launches a $5 million campaign to endow the Joe Vargas Chair in Turfgrass Pathology.

“Endowed positions are a cornerstone for recruiting outstanding faculty and supporting innovative research,” said MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “We are fortunate to have the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation partnership in our efforts to advance solutions to pressing challenges in turfgrass science in ways that will improve lives and strengthen communities.”

Funding for the endowed Joe Vargas Chair in Turfgrass Pathology will ensure that a strong and robust program is possible in perpetuity, and that MSU’s land-grant tradition of linking research to the region’s needs continues to advance the economic development, environmental stewardship and improved quality of life in Michigan and around the world.

This endowment honors Joe Vargas who has dedicated his 51-year career to improving the quality of turf on every continent except Antarctica. His knowledge has been shared in over 200 articles and over 1,000 presentations. As an international expert on turfgrass diseases, he is a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.

“At the forefront of our turfgrass program are our faculty members who are global leaders in their areas of expertise,” said Brian Horgan, Ph.D, chairperson for the MSU Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, which houses the Turfgrass Program. “By investing in this endowed chair position, Michigan Turfgrass Foundation shows its commitment to creating new knowledge through research, while educating and inspiring the students who will become the next generation of leaders in turfgrass science.”

Established in 1957, the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation, or MTF, is a nonprofit organization which supports turfgrass research and education. The organization’s members represent a vast portion of the industry including: homeowners, golf courses, seed, sod and stolon growers, municipalities, parks and recreation, schools, landscape and lawn care contractors, athletics and cemeteries. MTF annually sponsors the Michigan Turfgrass Conference and supports the MSU Turfgrass Field Day at the Hancock Turfgrass Research Center in East Lansing, Michigan.

“The Joe Vargas Endowed Chair continues the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation’s partnership with Michigan State University that has been successful for over 50 years,” said Carey Mitchelson, Michigan Turfgrass Foundation executive director. “This initiative helps to ensure that the MSU Turfgrass Program continues into perpetuity, sustains MSU’s place in cutting-edge turfgrass technology and furthers the advancement of turfgrass students. The combined efforts of MSU and the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation exhibit the true meaning of a land-grant university working with its partners to provide a template and foundation of future research and educational programs for generations to come.”

For over 70 years, MSU’s turfgrass management program has provided significant, cutting-edge research that positively impacts practitioners and end-users, from back yards to world-class golf courses.

The research taking place within the turfgrass program not only serves to positively affect our campus community and the state of Michigan’s economy, but also the United States and the world. Greenspace and turf are valuable for communities, providing positive ecosystem services including stormwater management, pollinator friendly habitats, urban cooling and environmental protection and preservation.

MSU offers a two-year certificate program, a four-year undergraduate degree and graduate degrees in turfgrass science and management. The programs bring together faculty, specialists and educators who work with both professional turfgrass managers and homeowners in managing turfgrass in an environmentally responsible manner.

Learn more about the Joe Vargas Endowed Chair in Turfgrass Pathology at