The 1998 Distinguished Alumnus Award was presented to Dr. James R. Wright.
Born in Riversdale, Colchester Co. Nova Scotia, Dr. Wright travelled by train and walked from the train station to register at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Sept. 1935. He graduated in 1937 then took a position with the NS Dept. of Agriculture testing farmer s soil. He walked from farm to farm with a soil testing kit for a salary of $50.00 per month. This work was carried out in Cape Breton and Shelbourne Co. He saved enough that year to enable him to register in the B.Sc. (Agr.) program at Macdonald College of McGill University in the fall of 1938 having been inspired toward soil chemistry by Dr. Harlow his former boss at the NSAC .
Dr. Wrights s education was interrupted by service in World War II when he served with the Royal Canadian Air Force, became a flying instructor with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan with the rank of Flight Commander; was awarded the King s Commission for his contribution and retired from active service with the rank of Squadron Leader. In 1945 he was appointed Assistant Provincial Chemist and lecturer in soil chemistry at the NSAC where he was held in high regard. During these years he was one of the Colleges first athletic coaches with teams in hockey, basketball and football.
In 1947 he attended Michigan State University where he received an MSc in 1948. In 1951 he joined the Federal Dept of Agriculture in Ottawa and completed his PhD at MSU in 1953 and became Head, Soil Genesis Section, Soils Research Institute. It was during these years that Dr. Wright and his colleagues became involved in basic and pioneer work on the podzolization of soils and the chemistry of organic matter in podzol soils. Their work contributed greatly to a clearer understanding of the chemical nature of soil organic matter and culminated in the publication of 24 scientific papers which gained international recognition.
In 1961, Dr. Wright was appointed Director of the Agriculture Canada Research Station in Kentville, NS. Under his leadership as Director for 18 years, the station became well known for new berry crop, tree fruit, vegetable and ornamental cultivar introductions, food technology techniques, broiler and layer poultry management practices, integrated pest management and through pesticide chemistry sought controls least harmful to the environment. Through persistent effort Dr. Wright was also able to implement the planning and construction of the long awaited new Agricultural Centre at Kentville. The new complex was considered the model for Federal Provincial cooperation and cohabitation. The design of having both departments under one roof has been followed at many sites throughout Canada.
In 1964 Dr. Wright was named a fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada. He is also a fellow of the Agricultural Institute of Canada, the highest recognition the institute bestows upon it members. He was awarded an Honorary Associate of the NSAC and an honorary Dr. of Science from Acadia University.
As a distinguished Soil Scientist and administrator Dr. James Wright has demonstrated outstanding leadership and judgement in the direction of Agriculture Canada s research stations at Kentville and Nappan. Because of his wide breadth of knowledge of the agricultural industry in the Atlantic, in Canada and abroad his advice and good judgement has been sought by a diverse group of organizations and committees devoted to the development of agriculture in the region. His personal integrity and strong sense of responsibility to his profession and the region has earned him the upmost respect of all those with whom he has worked throughout his professional career.
Dr. Wright remained very active after his retirement in December 1978 . He served as the registrar of the Nova Scotia Institute of Agrology and was instrumental in assisting with the installation of the Agrologist-in-training program and was an active participant in the general meetings of the Institute. He was Director of Bonnie Lee Farm for the mentally and physically challenged, president of the Chester Church Memorial Park skating and curling rinks. He had a forest management project at the Wright home farm in Riversdale where he planted over 122,000 Red Spruce and Pine.
Dr. Wright remained a strong supporter of the NSAC where his professional career began. His distinguished career, dedication to agriculture, great leadership qualities combined with a passion for helping others and his humble spirit make him a very deserving recipient of the NSAC Distinguished Alumnus Award for 1998.