In Memoriam: Alan D. Parker

September 21, 1945  –  August 23, 2022

The mycological world recently lost a dedicated mycologist and exceptional teacher of mycology, in the person of Dr. Alan D. Parker, on August 23, 2022. The son of Bert Lee Parker and Geraldine Agnes (Ryan) Parker, he was born September 21, 1945 in Wellsville, NY. He spent his first 12 years about ten miles down the road in Bolivar, enjoying life exploring the woods and hills of the northern Alleghany Plateau. He loved hiking and hunting the hills and forests of that region before being transplanted to the agricultural flatlands of Lawrenceville, IL, due to his father’s job transfer. He never developed a love for the “corn flats” but there he continued and completed his education through high school in 1963. His venture into higher education at Southern Illinois University later that year was tragically interrupted by a motorcycle accident (as a passenger) that put him on the mend for two years and affected his walking gait permanently. In June 1966, Alan reentered academia, this time at Eastern Illinois University, where he earned a B.S. in zoology (1969), then an M.S. in botany (1971) with Dr. Wesley Whiteside. During his work with Dr. Whiteside, Alan became interested in fungi, a secondary interest of Whiteside’s. While working on the M.S. degree, he also became interested in Diana Elizabeth Dortch. Their first date was a walk in the woods to show her some interesting plants….he says. They married in June of 1971, after which she helped support him during his Ph.D. program and continued that support for the more than 51 years since. Because of the mycological interest sparked by Dr. Whiteside, Alan decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree in mycology with Dr. D.P. Rogers at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana, where he also was a teaching assistant in a number of courses in botany and mycology during his tenure.  This sparked his love of teaching. His thesis involved a study of coprophilous ascos in Illinois, completed in August of 1976.

With Ph.D. in hand, Alan accepted an assistant professorship of botany/microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha in the Department of Biological Sciences, in August 1976. Here he advanced to the status of professor and remained until he retired in 2011.  UW-W, being a two-year transfer campus, required a substantial teaching load and little time for research. Over the 35 years in the position Alan taught two to three courses each semester under more than 22 different titles in the areas of botany, mycology, microbiology, and plant pathology. His courses enlightened more than 4,100 students. Many of his students were training to be nurses, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, or completing core courses for transfer to four-year institutions. He aided in the education of many thousands during his tenure and many kept in contact with him for years after leaving UW-W.

In addition to his academic teaching, Dr. Parker spent untold evenings and weekend days speaking to naturalist groups, garden clubs, amateur mycologists, and other groups on biology, ecology, and yes, edibility of mushrooms and other fungi. He was heavily involved in the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Field Station, providing several presentations and workshops each year on both the flora and mycota of the area. He also served the public through his fungus identifications for the Milwaukee Poison Control Center, consultations with physicians at various hospitals and even veterinarians in southeastern Wisconsin, concerning possible mushroom poisonings. He served as a research associate for mycology at the Milwaukee Public Museum and reorganized their mycological collection. He served on the Wisconsin Mycological Society Board of Directors since 1982.

Another major mycological service of Alan’s was to the annual A.H. Smith Lake States Mycological Foray. He was strong supporter of the group, with attendance at a majority of the annual events since his first in 1976, from the furthest north to the furthest south, with his presentations on Wisconsin fungi, by hosting/cohosting seven of them, and acting as historian for the group for nearly 40 years. His presence at ”the Smith” will be sorely missed .

Alan was a teacher at heart. He loved teaching––any teaching.

Unfortunately, his teaching duties left little time for research. After his Ph.D. thesis work on coprophilous ascomycetes most of his publications addressed distributional studies, especially for the gasteromycetes. Having little in the way of time and/or facilities for in depth research, Alan provided fungus collections and distributional data to other scientists. He recognized unusual finds and provided them to the appropriate specialists around the USA, Europe, Scandinavia, and beyond to support their studies in the various groups. He was an avid collector. He deposited hundreds of fungus specimens (especially gasteromycetes) into the mycological collections of both the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago (F) and the Illinois Natural History Survey in Champaign/Urbana (ILLS).

However, his collecting, as is common with those with a collecting tendency, was not limited to the fungi. He also collected mushroom stamps and has one of the most complete, if not the most complete, collections of mushroom stamps in the USA, if not the world. But collecting did not stop there. Every year he decorated five Christmas trees with his collection of mushroom ornaments with at least one whole tree designated to Amanita muscaria ornaments and another to morels. Then there was his collection of hosta varieties, stone carved owls, antique match safes, and even antique potato mashers. Yes, he was a collector.

Because the limited time and facilities available for in lab research, Alan undertook the task of searching out and drafting a checklist of all fungi reported in the literature to occur in the state of Wisconsin. He has drafted a massive manuscript listing these fungi. Unfortunately, this never reached publication but is in the process of being completed posthumously.

The mycological world will miss Alan Parker.