Person Details: R. L. McGregor
( Ronald Leighton McGregor )
R. L. McGregor
4 Apr 1919 – 21 Apr 2012
Author, Determiner, Collector
United States of America, Mexico
From Fora of North America Newsletter 26(1): 14 (2012):
Ronald Leighton McGregor
onald Leighton McGregor, Curator Emeritus of the
Ronald L. McGregor Herbarium at the University
of Kansas, died April 21, 2012, at the age of 93. Born in
Green, Kansas, on April 4, 1919, he graduated from high
school in Oregon, Missouri, in 1937. He received his B.S.
degree in botany from the University of Kansas in 1941
and started graduate studies at KU that same year. He
served in the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1946, stationed
most of that time in the Pacific Theater.
Ron resumed his graduate studies at KU in 1946,
completing his M.S. in 1948 and Ph.D. in 1954. He was
promoted to Assistant Professor at KU in 1954, when he
also took over directorship of the herbarium, then with
about 70,000 specimens. He was promoted to Associate
Professor and Chair of the Department of Botany in
1957 and to Professor in 1961. He administered the construction of a new botany greenhouse and a new herbarium building on KU’s West Campus in the early 1960s.
Around that same time, he initiated systematic efforts to
document the plants of the Great Plains with financial
support from the Bridwell Foundation. The Foundation
helped underwrite field expeditions to every county in
the Great Plains, garden plot studies of range grasses,
and specimen preparation into the 1980s.
Ron continued to serve as Chair of Botany until 1969,
when he became the first Chair of the Department of
Biological Sciences. He continued in that capacity until
1973. From 1955 to 1973, he advised 21 M.A. and 19
Ph.D. students, many of whom went on to careers in
academia and science. In 1971, he helped convene a
meeting of Great Plains botanists. That group formally
organized as the Great Plains Flora Association in 1973,
with Ron serving as the coordinator. The Association
published the Atlas of the Flora of the Great Plains in
1977 and the Flora of the Great Plains in 1986.
From 1973–1983, Ron served as Director of the
Kansas Biological Survey. In 1984, with funding from
the Bridwell Foundation, he oversaw construction of
an annex to the herbarium building; the entire building
was named the Joseph S. Bridwell Botany Research
Laboratory in 1985. Ron continued to serve as Professor
and Curator until 1989. At his retirement in 1989, the
herbarium had grown to nearly 300,000 specimens. In
1990, the collection formally was named the Ronald L.
McGregor Herbarium and “dedicated to the study of the
Great Plains flora.”
Ron authored nearly 200 papers and books during
his career and collected nearly 42,000 specimen numbers
in the U.S. and Mexico. His duplicate specimens are
widely distributed among North American herbaria and
frequently cited in the literature. He served as a regional
reviewer for the Flora of North America project, putting
his prodigious knowledge of Great Plains plants to good
use. He also authored treatments for five genera in
Hydrangeaceae; those will be published posthumously
in Volume 12. He was active at various times in more
than a dozen professional organizations.
Ron continued to work in the herbarium nearly every
day after retirement until April 2009. On rare occasions
when he took time off from the herbarium, he enjoyed
fishing and working in his garden. Ron was keenly interested in Kansas history, and he had an encyclopedic
memory for dates, places, people, and events. He is
survived by his wife of 70 years, Dorothy M. McGregor.
Collections: Tennessee (1968), Kansas (1947-1984): KANU, NY. On KANU labels. Missouri (1949), New York (1952), Oklahoma (1953), Colorado (1983): NY. Mexico (1951, 1953): NY.