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Tallman to Speak at TCHS Alumni Event

By Staff | Oct 11, 2017

Gary Tallman grew up on Elk Fork Road and attended Number 3 School and then Ellsworth Elementary. After graduating from Tyler County High School in 1967, he enrolled as an English major at West Liberty State College. An influential professor and his high school experiences with Audra Brewer led him to change his major to Biology in his freshman year. He graduated with an A.B. in Biology Education in 1971. Tallman intended to teach high school biology, but upon graduation another professor helped him secure a research fellowship to pursue the Ph.D. in Biochemical Genetics at West Virginia University. He finished the Ph.D. in 1976 and moved to the Biochemistry Division at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS where he conducted research on the structure of chromosomes in cancer cells. In 1978 Tallman became an Assistant Professor of Biology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. At Pepperdine, he taught undergraduate courses in cell biology and genetics and shifted his research to engage undergraduate students in studies of stomata, microscopic valves on the surfaces of leaves that control water loss from plants. Tallman and his students perfected methods for isolating the cells that surround stomata and growing them in test tubes, a technology that led to the discovery that heat stress blocks the function of the major growth hormone in plants.

Tallman rose to the rank of full professor at Pepperdine, serving as President of the faculty. His grant-funded research led him to stints at Stanford, UCLA, and Lancaster University in England. In June, 1989, he was traveling with a delegation of American scientists in the People’s Republic of China.

The delegation was in Tiananmen Square the evening the government forcibly cleared student protestors from the Square. In 1996 Tallman moved to Willamette University in Salem, OR to become the University’s first Endowed Chair of Science. He continued his teaching and federally funded research at Willamette. In 2012 his lab was the first to report that heat stress blocks plant growth hormone action by preventing plants from synthesizing a gas required to activate the hormone. In 2005 Tallman became the founding director of Willamette’s faculty grants office. Since its inception the office has helped faculty members raise $13.5 million in grants for teaching, research and artistic projects. In 2011 Tallman was honored with the Mentor Award from the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon; he is the author of 35 scientific research articles and book chapters. He retired last May