Remembering Vernon Cheadle

Remembering Vernon Cheadle 1910-1995

Vernon Cheadle

The botanical community and higher education have lost one of their strongest advocates and most distinguished citizens. Vernon Irvin Cheadle died on July 23 in Santa Barbara, California.

Vernon Cheadle was born in Salem, South Dakota on February 6, 1910, grew up on a farm in South Dakota, and attended South Dakota State College for one year before transferring to Miami University. He received a B.S. (magna cum laude) from Miami University in 1932, and an M.S. (1934) and a Ph.D. (1936) from Harvard University. His Ph.D. research was concerned with secondary growth in monocotyledons. His mentor at Harvard was Ralph H. Wetmore.

Dr. Cheadle joined the Department of Botany at Rhode Island State College in 1936, and served as Professor and Chairman of the department from 1942 to 1952. From 1942 to 1952, he also served as Director of the Graduate Division at Rhode Island, except for a commitment with the Navy in the Pacific Theatre of WW II from 1944 to 1946. His prodigious talent and ability as an administrator had already become evident to those around him. During that same period he was an enor- mously productive teacher and researcher. He continued his research on the vascular system in monocotyledons, with special emphasis on phylogenetic specialization of the sieve tubes in the metaphloem and vessels in the metaxylem. Among other notable findings, his research revealed that, in monocotyledons, vessels appeared first in the root and later in stems, inflorescence axes, and leaves, in that order.

In 1950-51, Dr. Cheadle spent a sabbatical year at the University of California at Davis. His attraction to Davis was Katherine Esau, who shared his interest in vascular tissues, especially the phloem. During his sabbatical year at Davis, the botany department had an interim chairman, and upon his return to Rhode Island, Dr. Cheadle received an invitation to return to Davis as the department chairman there. While on sabbatical at Davis, the quality of the man shone through. The folks at Davis were impressed not only with his research, teaching, and administrative credentials, but also with his genuine interest in students and the warm response he received from students. Davis was a small institution at the time and the botany faculty, in particular, were uniquely concerned for their students. Vernon Cheadle was just right for the chairmanship.

While at Davis, Dr. Cheadle's collaboration with Dr. Esau resulted in a series of contributions on the comparative structure of secondary phloem in dicotyledons. These included a detailed investigation on the cellular organization of the secondary phloem studied primarily by an analysis of radial files of cells in serial transverse and tangential sections. In other studies, large numbers of species from many families were examined for specific features such as variations in cell wall thickness, the effect of cell division on the final length of sieve elements, and the size of sieve-plate pores. These studies were especially important in discussions of the evolutionary specialization of the phloem tissue in rela- tion to function. In the late 1950s and early 60s, he and Dr. Esau undertook some of the first ultrastructural studies on phloem.

Dr. Cheadle served as President of the Botan- ical Society of America in 1961, and in 1963 he received the Merit Award of the Society. The Certificate of Merit read "for his deep and abiding interest in science, his service to biology through untiring efforts to promote scholarly teaching and research, and for his major contributions to the interpretation of the evolution of vascular tissue in the monocotyledons and of the structure of phloem in the dicotyledons." There was much more to come.

In 1962, Dr. Cheadle was appointed Chancellor of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Dr. Esau decided that she would also move to Santa Barbara so that she and Dr. Cheadle could continue their collaborative research. Although they continued to work together, Dr. Cheadle's major efforts during his 15 years as Chancellor were laying the foundation for a first-class research university. Under his leadership and vision, UCSB underwent remarkable growth and attracted a critical mass of distinguished scientists and scholars. As Chancellor, Dr. Cheadle's principal concern was students all aspects of their well-being. During his entire tenure, he held breakfast meetings (twice monthly) with student representatives at the Chancellor's residence on campus. He retired as Professor and Chancellor Emeritus in 1977.

Dr. Cheadle endured as Chancellor during the most tumultuous of times in the history of higher education in the United States. Nothing could deter him from achieving the goals he had set for the future ofUCSB. He is remembered today as one of the great leaders in the history of the University of California system. In 1979, the UC Board of Regents named UCSB' s main administration building Vernon I. Cheadle Hall. A building could well be named also for Mary Cheadle, who has contributed so very much to UCSB. (A room in the Department of Special Collections of the University Library bears her name.) She and Vernon were an inseparable, dedicated team. They very naturally and unselfishly gave of themsel ves for the welfare of others.

Upon "retirement," Dr. Cheadle returned to the laboratory full time, literally. He spent five days a week in the laboratory and often worked on weekends. He simply could not learn enough about the tracheary elements in monocotyledons: the kinds, their occurrence, and their taxonomic and phylogenetic implications. Collaborating with him on this research was Dr. Jennifer Thorsch. Most recently, they were working on the tracheary elements of the Bromeliaceae.

One of Dr. Cheadle's associates at UCSB characterized him as: "a Renaissance man, a mind-and body kind of guy." Dr. Cheadle was a track and field champion during his college years. In 1978, he was inducted into the Miami Athletic Hall of Fame. For 18 years and until recently, he competed in the Masters Track and Field Meets and held several Masters world records in the discus throw and shot-put. A distinguished botanist, educator, athlete, and human being, Vernon I. Cheadle was the personification of excellence and integrity. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, and a fellow ofthe American Association for the Advancement of Science, the California Academy of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Vernon Cheadle was a devoted and loving husband and father. A most caring and loyal person, he never neglected his family nor his friends, who were legion. He had an enormous, positive impact on all who knew him well, especially this writer during a very formative period in his life as he aspired to become a botanist. Dr. Cheadle expected his students to work hard and to strive for excellence. He cared, he shared, and he led by example. Vernon Cheadle never forgot his humble beginnings in South Dakota and had great respect for everyone from all walks of life. These values he also instilled in others. We are all wealthier for him having touched our lives. - Ray F. Evert

Questions About Botany Meetings should be directed to: BSA Meetings Manager:
Johanne Stogran
Botanical Society of America Meetings Office
2813 Blossom Ave
Columbus, OH 43231
Tele: (614) 899-9356 - Fax: (614) 895-7866 - E-mail:
Update November 2005. Copyright 2003 Document is XHTML 1.0 Transitional.
This site is best viewed using Mozilla Firefox.