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OSU's Tom Hennessey receives national forestry honor


Tom Hennessey, Oklahoma State University professor of forestry, has been awarded the prestigious honor of Fellow by the Society of American Foresters.

Approximately 5 percent of SAF members attain the rank of Fellow, which honors lifetime achievement to the forestry profession and outstanding contributions to the organization.

"Tom Hennessey embodies the spirit and intent of the SAF Fellow award program in all respects," said Tom Kuzmic, also a SAF Fellow and a professor of forestry in the OSU Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management. "He has provided dedicated, noteworthy and consistent service to our profession and to SAF in many capacities. He is held in high regard by his peers and by members of our campus and local community."

A faculty member with OSU's Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources since 1976, Hennessey has directed fundamental research programs investigating how water stress and soil nutrient deficiencies affect tree growth and wood formation. Additional projects led by Hennessey seek to quantify physiological responses of forests to silvicultural practices such as thinning, fertilization and competition control.

As part of the U.S. Forest Service Southern Global Change Program, Hennessey explored the response of pine ecosystems to elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide. His field CO2-exposure site was one of only three created in the southern United States.

Hennessey has secured more than $1.5 million in competitive grants and contracts to support his research projects over the years. Funding agencies include the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Agency for International Development, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the forest industry, among others.

His reputation as a forestry researcher has led to his being invited to speak internationally in France, Sweden, Finland, North Africa and even Estonia prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain.

"From my perspective, I believe Tom's most noteworthy accomplishment as an OSU faculty member may be his consistent high-quality teaching," Kuzmic said. "Tom is incredibly effective at connecting with students, and in making conceptual and abstract ideas very understandable and down-to-earth."

Kuzmic added that students constantly remark that Hennessey is "one of the best professors that they have ever been affiliated with in the college classroom."

Hennessey's knack for administrative detail and ability to foster collaboration between individuals and groups was a major reason why he was elected by his peers to serve as interim head of the OSU Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management during its formation, a process that took nearly two years.

"Faculty from the disciplines of forestry, wildlife, range and fisheries were brought together to form our new department," Kuzmic said. "Tom's admirable ability for bringing folks together and capitalizing on collective abilities and strengths got us focused and moving forward in a unified way. He helped the department get off to a great start."

Hennessey has served as chair of the Oklahoma Urban and Community Forestry Council, Oklahoma Division of Ouachita Society of American Foresters and Southern Forest Environmental Research Council. He was also instrumental in forming the Stillwater Community Tree Board, twice serving as chair of the volunteer organization.

A registered forester in the state of Oklahoma, Hennessey is a member of the Oklahoma Forestry Association, Gamma Sigma Delta Honorary Society of Agriculture and Xi Sigma Pi Forestry Honorary Society.

He earned his doctoral degree in forest biology from Iowa State University in 1976 and his bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in business from the University of Northern Iowa in 1969.

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