HADLEY – Rudolf M. Schuster, Ph.D., scholar, bryologist, botanist, professor, mentor, prolific author and world explorer, died at 91, in Stanwood, Wash., on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, following a recent stroke.
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Dr. Schuster, Professor Schuster, or Rudy – to all who knew him – was born April 8, 1921, in Altmühldorf, Germany. He immigrated to the United States in 1930 with his parents and brother and settled in New York City. Rudy became an American citizen in 1937.
Rudy was a student at Stuyvesant High School, where science and mathematics were emphasized. He studied at Cornell University where he earned his bachelors and masters degrees in entomology. He then studied at the University of Minnesota, majoring in entomology with a minor in botany, and earned his doctorate degree.
Dr. Schuster's subsequent academic career as a professor and researcher spanned many decades and his focus shifted from study of insects to study of hepatics, or liverworts – tiny, interesting, and usually lovely moss-like plants. Having written his manuscript for Boreal Hepaticae: A Manual of the Liverworts of Minnesota and Adjacent Regions at the same time as his Ph.D. thesis, Dr. Schuster accepted a position of Instructor in the Department of Botany at the University of Minnesota. From 1950 to 1953, he taught as an Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi; followed by three years at Duke University, as a Research Associate and Assistant Professor of Botany; and a year at the University of Michigan where he was appointed Assistant Professor of Botany.
For most of his career, Dr. Schuster taught and conducted his botanical research at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. There, he was appointed associate professor in 1957, became a full professor a year later and taught until his retirement in 1983. He became professor emeritus in 1984. In his later years, Dr. Schuster was a research associate in the Dpartment of Botany, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois. Over the course of his career, Dr. Schuster received much recognition for his work, including being awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships and a Fulbright U.S. scholar grant to conduct botanical research in New Zealand.
Dr. Schuster's research took him, over many decades, to many countries around the world. His fieldwork led him on countless adventures, and resulted in invaluable scientific finds including over 300 new species and over 70 new genera of hepatics. In his laboratory studies, Dr. Schuster was meticulous, carefully dissecting plants to study and draw them in the minutest detail. Numerous colleagues and students made pilgrimages over the years to Dr. Schuster's Cryptogamic Laboratory in Hadley, Massachusetts, where they experienced the Schusters' generous hospitality and stimulating conversations.
Rudy met his first wife, Olga, when he was a student at Cornell University, and they married in 1943. She joined him in his fieldwork and assisted on his many books and manuscripts, typing, editing, and generally working with him to complete them for publication. Dr. Schuster produced botanical publications of very high quality and possibly unmatchable volume based on his own field research and laboratory studies, typing (with Olga) all of his original manuscripts on an old "Olympia" manual portable typewriter. His hundreds of hand-drawn illustrations of hepatics for his manuscripts are of unsurpassed quality, scientifically, as well as truly being works of art in the form of botanical illustration. Rudy loved classical music and it was always playing in the background whether he was working in his laboratory or reading by the fire.
Dr. Schuster's six-volumes of Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America East of the Hundredth Meridian, based on at least twenty years of North American travel and fieldwork, are invaluable works for students of North American hepaticae. The International Association for Plant Taxonomy awarded him the Engler Medal in Silver for 1992 for this work. His Austral Hepaticae, with two volumes published and two underway, based on personal fieldwork in the Southern Hemisphere over four decades, are invaluable references for the hepatic flora in lands once part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwanaland. At the time of his death, Dr. Schuster had been continuing to work on his manuscripts, including Volumes III and IV of Austral Hepaticae, with the assistance of Drs. Judith Dean Godfrey and Geoff Godfrey (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) and help from his second wife, Marlene Schuster and her daughter Joan Waale.
Rudy was preceded in death by his first wife, Olga.
He is survived by Marlene, his loving wife who brought Rudy much happiness in their years together, and her daughter Joan, who were both by his side when he passed away peacefully; extended family in Washington state; and his daughters from his first marriage, Dr. Erica Watson, Hilde McNeil and her husband Marvin; one granddaughter, Jennifer Kleinbaum and her husband Scott; and two great-grandchildren, Andrew and Sidney. Rudy will be missed by numerous friends and colleagues worldwide.
Rudy's passing is a major loss to the scientific world of hepatics, botanical taxonomy, phytogeography, and evolution. His work, through his published papers, books, and fine botanical illustrations, will inspire students of hepaticology for all time.
A memorial service is being planned for a later date.
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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Nov. 30, 2012