Dr. Bruce J. Zobel, NC State professor emeritus and pioneer in the field of forest genetics, died Feb. 5 at his home in Raleigh. He was 90.
Zobel’s connection with NC State lasted 45 years. It began with his move to Raleigh in 1957 to lead the Cooperative Tree Improvement Program. He remained active following his first retirement from that position in 1979, founding the CAMCORE program in gene conservation and forest genetics. He continued to teach undergraduate and graduate classes and mentor graduate students until 2001.
A native of California, Zobel earned a forestry degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1943 and took a job as a logging engineer in redwood forests until he was drafted the following year. The Marine served in California, Virginia and North Carolina, where he was appointed forestry officer at Camp Lejeune.
After his military service, Zobel returned to Berkeley to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in forestry. He oversaw a new program in forest genetics at Texas A&M University until 1956. The following year he joined NC State.
Zobel, who served as the E.F. Conger Distinguished Professor of Forestry, received the O. Max Gardner award, the UNC Board of Governors’ highest faculty honor, in 1972 for outstanding contributions to the welfare of humankind. Recognized as an authority on genetic improvement and variation of wood properties, Zobel earned international recognition in 1975 as the first forester to be awarded the TAPPI Gold Medal for outstanding contributions to the technical progress of the pulp and paper industry.
Zobel did consulting work around the world, authored six books and mentored more than 100 graduate students, many of whom hold leadership positions with universities, government and industry. In 1998, he and his wife created the Bruce and Barbara Zobel Endowment for International Forestry to allow students to gain firsthand experience with forestry production around the world.
In 2004, he received the Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal, recognizing his career achievements and contributions to the university.
Services for Zobel will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, at Avent Ferry United Methodist Church in Raleigh. Donations in his memory may be made to that church, the Bruce and Barbara Zobel Scholarship Fund in care of Campus Box 8010 or a charity of your choice.