November/December 2016
Spudman 7: Alexander Pavlista

Q+A with Alexander Pavlista

Born in Praha, Czechoslovakia, Alexander Pavlista left in 1948 when his parents escaped the Communist regime and immigrated to the United States in 1951.

Pavlista grew up in New York City. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology with minors in chemistry and theology at Manhattan College. After two years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a National Institute of Health research trainee, he received a Ph.D. at City University of New York in plant physiology.

Pavlista was a USDA research associate at North Carolina State University for two years. From 1979 to 1988, he was a research biologist at American Cyanamid. In 1988, Pavlista joined the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) as potato specialist and crop physiologist. In 1997, he went to Uzbekistan for USAID’s Farmer to Farmer program. In 2008, Pavlista served as president of The Potato Association of America, and in 2015 he became an honorary life member of The PAA.

He will retire from UNL in 2017, after 50 years of continuous research.

He and his wife, Victoria, will live in Denver, Colorado. Victoria Pavlista was instrumental in his success in the potato industry and co-hosted the 2004 PAA meeting in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. In many ways, she has supported him in his goals and endeavors.


What are the best words of advice you’ve received?

“… ask what you can do for your country.” J.F. Kennedy, 1961
“… to explore strange new worlds, … to boldly go where no man has gone before.” Star Trek, 1966

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

Retire in March 2017 at 70, having completed 50 years of research. Write a book outlining specific research in plant sciences that altered theological concepts of the time, starting with Aristotle.

What job or work would you have pursued if you had not become involved in the potato industry?

At 13, I knew that I wanted to do scientific research; at 15, that this would be in biology. At 21, I chose biomedical science instead of oceanography. Then, I became a plant physiologist. At 30, I wanted to help agriculture. Had I entered the military, I would have joined the Navy and become a navigator. Who knows where I would have gone following this alternate dimension.

What do you do to relax?

Solve puzzles, e.g. Sudoku, and play games, e.g. chess. Skiing, swimming and walking/strolling. Reading, and in the near future writing.

What would you like to be your lasting legacy?

That recognizes my efforts on Earth, my integrity, my feeble attempt to be a gentleman, my appreciation of others and their ideas, my respect for all life, my avoidance of judging others and above all my humanitarianism.

What are three things on your bucket list?

1. Write my book, tentatively titled “From Plants To God.”
2. Discover lost family connections through DNA analysis.
3. Write a family memoir/history.

What is the one truth you have learned about the potato industry?

The dedication, breadth, depth, intelligence, curiosity, support and friendship of The Potato Association of America and its members!





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