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Hutchens Selected to Receive 2023 Musser Award of Excellence

Dr. Wendell Hutchens
Dr. Wendell Hutchens

The Musser International Turfgrass Foundation has selected Dr. Wendell Hutchens as the 2023 Award of Excellence recipient.

The prestigious award is given to outstanding Ph.D. candidates who, in the final phase of their graduate studies, demonstrated overall excellence throughout their doctoral program in turfgrass research.

“It is an unbelievable honor to receive the Musser Award of Excellence,” said Dr. Hutchens. “I could not have accomplished such a feat without my foundational Christian faith, unwavering support from my wife, Anica, my family and friends, and the exceptional leadership of my mentors.”

Dr. Hutchens received his B.S. degree in Turfgrass Science from North Carolina State University and went on to complete his M.S. in Turfgrass Pathology from NCSU under Dr. Jim Kerns and Dr. Travis Gannon. His research there focused on the influence of post-application irrigation and soil surfactant applications on fungicide movement and efficacy against root diseases. He earned his Ph.D. in Turfgrass Pathology at Virginia Tech under Dr. David McCall. His dissertation focused on the biology, epidemiology, and management of spring dead spot of bermudagrass. In August of 2022, Hutchens became an assistant professor of turfgrass science at the University of Arkansas, where he divides his time between research, extension, teaching.

Hutchens has already published seven research papers for his M.S. and Ph.D. projects and has seven more awaiting publication on topics related to turfgrass pathology, turfgrass physiology, and native grass implementation in the transition zone of the United States. He has already given more than 50 presentations on his research nationally and internationally. 

Hutchens said, “I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to be a faculty member at the University of Arkansas, and I hope to expand the research, extension, and teaching programs during my tenure. My mentors – including Drs. David McCall, Jim Kerns, Travis Gannon, Mike Goatley, David Shew, Mizuho Nita, and Mike Richardson – have been incredible to work with and learn from. Their mentorship has taught me to be a better scientist, professional, and, most importantly, person.”

He hopes to focus his career on providing applied, cutting-edge research results in turfgrass pathology, precision turfgrass management, and turfgrass agronomy as well as training the next generation of turfgrass scientists: “There are many outstanding students in the University of Arkansas turfgrass science program, and I hope to help them reach their greatest potential. Training tomorrow’s generation to be the best they can be is my ultimate career goal.”

Musser International Turfgrass Foundation President Frank Dobie said, “The standards are very rigorous for the doctoral candidates who seek the award, so all of the applicants are of the highest caliber. We strive to select the one candidate that we feel is the best of the best and, this year, that was Dr. Hutchens.”

The criteria for selecting award recipients include graduate work, academic record, dissertation, publications, leadership and extracurricular activities. To date, awards have been granted to doctoral students from universities including: Arizona, Auburn, Cornell, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Michigan State, Rutgers, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Virginia Tech.
To learn more about Professor H. Burton Musser, the Foundation’s history and past recipients of the award, visit

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