Remembering Dr Dallas Leon Oswalt
Dr Dallas Oswalt, former Head of International Training at ICRISAT, passed away on 14 August. He was 92. Colleagues remember him as a born educator, a strict disciplinarian, a devout man and a fair-minded leader who applied the rules equally to students and staff.
Born in Ohio in 1927, his humanitarian streak was evident from a very young age. In 1945, on graduating from high school, he volunteered in the merchant marines under the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration to deliver livestock from USA to Italy. He set sail on the SS Mexican from Baltimore, Maryland to Italy and on reaching the capital city of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, the appalling scenes of devastation and ruin left an indelible mark on the 17-year-old. This experience shaped the foundation of his lifelong endeavor for international peace and justice.
Dr Oswalt started his career as a teacher of applied agricultural sciences in 1950 in USA. In 1953, he set out to establish a secondary school and teacher’s training college in northeast Nigeria. He served as principal of the school. After 11 years in Africa, he returned to Purdue University to conduct research on sorghum and earned a PhD in Agronomy from Purdue University in 1973 for his thesis “Nutritional Quality of Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench as Affected by Polyphenols, Crude Protein, Amino Acid Composition and Rat Performance”. In 1975, he joined ICRISAT as a Training Officer and retired as Program Leader, Human Resources Development Program in 1992.
At ICRISAT, he was responsible for developing comprehensive training schedules and assignments for all levels of trainees, Research Scholars and Post-doctoral Fellows. Since instruction was in English, and several of the trainees were from non-English speaking backgrounds, he included English language lessons as part of their curriculum. He was especially effective with the training of research technicians from Sub-Saharan Africa in the six-month courses. He saw to it that trainees not only gained necessary experimental design and statistical analysis skills to support scientists, but also ensured they were hands-on in sowing plots, managing them and harvesting the produce at the end of the season.
By the time he retired, around 2,267 trainees representing 87 countries were trained by ICRISAT and several of them went back to their native homes as leaders of research themselves. He was a staunch Christian and held prayer services at his house every Sunday for residents who were religiously inclined.
Dr Oswalt served on committees related to training, workshops, principal staff housing, staff council, computer management, editing of scientific publications, air-pollution control, transport management, cost management, regional technology-exchange systems, and staff policy.
ICRISAT mourns his demise and cherishes his dedication to the Institute. He is survived by his daughter Karen Sue, son Kris Sydney, grandchildren and great-grand children.