It is with great sadness that we note the death of Craig F. Morris on October 25, 2021 in Pullman, Washington, USA shortly after his diagnosis with aggressive pancreatic cancer.
Craig was the Director of the USDA-ARS Western Wheat Quality Lab at the time of his passing, having assumed the post in 1989. He received a B.S. degree from Iowa State University, and an M.S. degree and Ph.D. from Kansas State University.
During his career at the Wheat Lab, Craig established himself as a preeminent cereal scientist. He was central to numerous fundamental discoveries in the field. He led the team that discerned the genetics and cause of wheat grain hardness (soft versus hard wheat). He delved deeply into other traits associated with wheat end-use quality including polyphenol oxidase and its link to discoloration of products, the role of starch structure in textural aspects of products, and how non-starch carbohydrates influence product quality.
Craig applied his basic discoveries to produce a new type of durum wheat, soft durum, that allows for entirely new and unique utilization of durum wheat. He also led teams that used mice dining preference to hypothesize the reason for the perpetuation of hard wheat after its inception. He discovered that field mice preferred soft-textured wheat to hard-textured wheat thus allowing hard wheat retention in Neolithic grain silos and subsequently plantings. He also led researchers into the genetics of wheat aroma and taste, locating genes associated with flavor and aroma.
Craig authored many manuscripts and book chapters that covered an enormous range of topics, reflecting his personal wide-ranging interests in wheat.
He was deeply involved in the Cereals & Grains Association (formerly the American Association of Cereal Chemists International) where he was a Fellow and served on the Board of Directors. At the time of his death, he was the Cereals & Grains Association president-elect. He was a long-time officer in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) section of the Cereals & Grains Association as well as the founder of the PNW-Wheat Quality Council (PNW-WQC), an organization devoted to the breeding, production, and utilization of PNW wheat. The PNW-WQC has grown in stature to become one of the best attended cereal chemistry meetings.
Craig was a zestful and enthusiastic attendee at Cereals & Grains Association annual meetings and he particularly relished after-hours ad hoc meetings in hospitality suites where networking with colleagues led to beneficial partnerships in research. Many current cereal scientists who attended these informal “seminars" were recruited into advanced degrees or leadership positions in industry by Craig and other GESR colleagues.
He was known as an avid racquetball player who managed to inflict more injury to himself than on his opponents.
Dr. Morris will be sorely missed by his colleagues and the cereal chemistry world. We will miss his wide-ranging research as well as his willingness to cheerfully partner with any who have unique interests in the production and utilization of wheat. But mostly, he will be missed by his many friends who greatly valued his mentoring, wit, and friendship over the decades in which we were fortunate to know him.