Our very own Turfgrass expert Doctor Leah Brillman will be honored at the upcoming 2018 Golf Industry Show with the GCSAA's Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award.
Longtime turfgrass science researcher Leah Brilman, Ph.D. is one of two to have been selected to receive the 2018 Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award from GCSAA. The pair will be recognized during the Golf Industry Show Opening Celebration, presented in partnership with Syngenta, on Feb. 6 in San Antonio.
The award is given to individuals who have made an outstanding, substantive and enduring contribution to the advancement of the golf course superintendent profession. The award was renamed in 2009 in honor of Col. John Morley, GCSAA’s founder and first president. He was the first to earn the Distinguished Service Award in 1932, and he received it again in 1940.
Over the last 25 years plus Brilman has worked for Seed Research of Oregon and DLF Pickseed. She currently serves as Director of Research and Technical Services. Brilman’s research interests include turfgrass breeding and genetics as well as the utilization of new cultivars and management changes. Her excellence in the turfgrass industry has been well documented through the many awards she has received, including a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, the Association of Commercial Plant Breeders Award for Industry Breeder, and being named a fellow in the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA). She has received the Fred V. Grau Turfgrass Science Award from the Turfgrass Science Division of CSSA.
“I was thrilled and honored to receive this award from GCSAA,” says Brilman. “I enjoy working with superintendents and students, and the association has allowed me to do this. When I am brainstorming with a superintendent or driving around a golf course with them, I learn from them as well.”
Brilman was a biology major at California State University, Bakersfield in the 1970s, when work on a paper about the evolution of wheat led to an interest in grass species. She received her bachelor’s degree from CSU Bakersfield in 1976, and would go on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in agronomy and plant genetics from the University of Arizona. She has been a longtime faculty member for GCSAA education and is the co-coordinator of the annual GCSAA Collegiate Turf Bowl. In addition to participation in state and regional turfgrass conferences around the United States, Brilman has lectured in the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Japan and Korea on various topics related to turfgrass cultivars. Brilman says that since the start of her career, the interest in drought-resistant grasses has been one of the biggest changes in the industry.
“Turfgrass breeders have to think long-term,” she says. “Coming from California and Arizona, I thought drought resistance would be more important earlier in my career, but it did not become a consistent demand until the last five years.” Leah Brilman will become only the second woman to ever receive this award and recognition. The first being her cousin Patricia Vittum, Ph.D. in 2017.