LSU Boyd Professor Emerita Dr. Shirley Tucker Gives $2M to Plant Systematics Program | LSU College of Science

A Legacy of Excellence

LSU Boyd Professor Emerita Dr. Shirley Tucker Gives $2M to Plant Systematics Program

 Tucker at ribbon cutting

LSU Herbarium Renamed in Her Honor
During Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, October 15


LSU Boyd Professor Emerita Dr. Shirley Tucker has given $2 million to the LSU Herbarium and plant systematics program in the College of Science Department of Biological Sciences. Her gift, supplemented with an additional $960,000 from the Louisiana Board of Regents, creates a $2.96 million endowment to support the Dr. Shirley C. Tucker Chair in Plant Systematics, supports four superior graduate student scholarships and provides endowed support for the LSU Herbarium.

“LSU’s history of excellence in plant biology is in large part due to Dr. Shirley Tucker’s scientific contributions. Her generosity will enable us to support exemplary faculty and recruit outstanding graduate students in the field of plant studies, carrying on the legacy she built here. We cannot thank her enough,” said F. King Alexander, LSU president.  

In recognition of her distinguished career and contributions to plant sciences at LSU and beyond, the LSU Herbarium will be renamed the Shirley C. Tucker Herbarium during a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, October 15, at 2 p.m. on the second floor of LSU’s Life Sciences Annex Building. The ceremony will be followed by a symposium at 2:30 p.m. featuring guest speakers Irwin M. Brodo, emeritus scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, and Chelsea D. Specht, associate professor and curator of monocots at the University of California, Berkeley.

“I am grateful for the many enjoyable years I spent as a faculty member at LSU. It is a pleasure to be able to show my appreciation with this gift and to support a strong program in plant systematics at LSU that will continue for years to come,” said Tucker.

A renowned lichenologist and leading authority on floral development in legumes and other groups of flowering plants, Tucker was one of the first women to receive LSU’s highest faculty rank of Boyd Professor. She has written more than 150 publications on floral development, plant systematics and lichen distributions and structure. She is also credited for building LSU’s herbarium lichen collection, which contains 44,000 specimens, one of the largest such collections in the Southeast.

The Shirley C. Tucker Chair in Plant Systematics will provide perpetual support for an outstanding faculty member in plant systematics in the Biological Sciences Department and additional funding for superior graduate student scholarships to recruit top-performing graduate students in plant systematics to LSU. Tucker’s gift will also provide continuous and reliable support to maintain and grow LSU’s Herbarium collections.

“Dr. Tucker is a trailblazer in her field and role model for aspiring botanists and women in science. We are very excited to be a part of her legacy of achievement,” said Cynthia Peterson, dean and Seola Arnaud and Richard Vernon Edwards Jr. Professor. “Shirley Tucker has maintained a decades-long commitment to the LSU Herbarium and her gift will allow us to sustain this important facility and attract additional talented faculty and students to the plant systematics program.”

The LSU Herbarium is a testament to the geographical breadth and taxonomic depth of Tucker’s lichen studies. Her interest in lichens began in the 1950s as a student in the Botany Department at the University of Minnesota. She began focusing on lichens in the Gulf Coast region circa 1970 after reviewing LSU’s historic Louisiana lichen collections of A.B. Langlois from the late 1800s. Her research collections also include vascular plants, bryophytes, algae and fungi.

“Shirley C. Tucker’s generous, substantial donation of funds for supporting the plant systematics program and the herbarium at Louisiana State University is gratifying beyond words.  Since day one of my arrival at LSU in 1975, Shirley has been a resourceful, helpful and personable colleague for me, for graduate students and for many scientists worldwide. Knowing that all of her fine attributes will be embodied forever in this fine gift will be a source of inspiration for all of those who will benefit from her generosity,” said Lowell Urbatsch, director and curator, Shirley C. Tucker Herbarium.

Tucker retired from LSU in 1995 and continues a very active research program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and the Louisiana State University Herbarium. In 2006, she was inducted into the LSU College of Science Hall of Distinction. She has also held a number of prestigious leadership positions including president of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists and the Botanical Society of America.


About the LSU Herbarium

Founded in 1869, the LSU Herbarium is the oldest collection of preserved plant specimens in the Gulf South and one of the two largest collections of plants in Louisiana. Originally composed entirely of specimens of vascular plants, it now also includes fine collections of lichens, mosses and fungi. In all, the LSU Herbarium contains ca. 250,000 specimens, with over 40,000 lichens and ca. 25,000 fungi. Gulf Coast plants, lichens, and mosses are well represented, while over a third of the entire collection is from outside the United States. The Bernard Lowy mycological collection is rich in Neotropical wood-decaying fungi.  The LSU Herbarium is an essential resource for research, teaching and public service, including the study of native and naturalized plants of Louisiana, the ecology of Louisiana marshes, the medicinal plants of the Gulf South and vascular plant systematics.