Ithaca, NY

Edwin Burnell Oyer passed away on November 15, 2016.  He was born in Ft. Wayne, Indiana on June 18, 1927 to Eli J. and Minnie L. Oyer.  His only sibling, a sister, Naomi Oyer Pollitt predeceased him.  Surviving are: his loving and beloved wife of 64 years, the former Mary Ann Jones; two daughters, Ann Oyer (Tom) Keith of Ft. Collins, Colorado and Janet Oyer (Kevin) Van Cleave of Los Alamos, New Mexico; four grandchildren Megan Oyer Keith of Berkeley, California, Amy Glenn Keith of Denver, Colorado, Cameron Van Cleave of Fort Collins, Colorado and Ryan Van Cleave of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

After graduating from Central High School in Ft. Wayne in 1945, when World War II was nearing its end, he joined the U.S. Navy and served on Guam in the Pacific Ocean theatre.  Although raised a Mennonite in the pacifist tradition, Edwin felt compelled to defend his country because of the aggressiveness of the attack on Pearl Harbor. After completing his military service, he attended Purdue University and received B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from that university.  Following completion of his studies, Edwin joined the faculty of the Department of Vegetable Crops in the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell University in February 1955.  He was awarded a NATO Fellowship in Science in 1961 to conduct vegetable research at Le Phytotron in Gif-sur-Yvette, France.  He joined Purdue University’s Department of Horticulture as a faculty member from 1963 to 1966 after which he returned to Cornell as Chairman of the Department of Vegetable Crops.

His experiences in international agriculture began in 1971 when he was tapped by Cornell to serve as the final Project Leader of the Graduate Education Program of the Cornell University – University of the Philippines College of Agriculture Project that ended a 20-year collaboration between these two institutions of higher learning.  While in the Philippines he was invited to join the late Robert F. Chandler, Jr. in the establishment of the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center on Taiwan where he served as Deputy Director of Research while on leave-of-absence from Cornell from 1972 to 1974.  He returned to Cornell as Director of the International Agriculture Program in July 1974.

The attraction of Southeast Asia was too strong to resist and he resigned from Cornell in January 1977 to join the newly established International Agricultural Development Service where he served as the Project Leader for a World Bank financed project to establish the Agency for Agricultural Research and Development in the Republic of Indonesia.  This assignment extended to September 1982 when he returned to Cornell once again to resume his position as Director of the International Agricultural Program in which he served until he took semi-retirement in 1987 and fully retired in 1992.

Ed and Mary Ann enjoyed a lengthy retirement spending summer months in Ithaca and winter months in Ft. Collins closer to family.  Although career decisions involving moves were made by family consensus, Ed wishes to acknowledge the faithful support of his wife and daughters and the tolerance these choices required as they resulted in extended separations and great physical distances.  He is forever grateful to them.

In addition to a distinguished career, Ed led an exceptional life.  He was a good man in the deepest and best sense of that phrase, someone beloved by his family; a man who was rarely moved by anger but often by kindness. Ed was deeply interested in the world he lived in. His wide-ranging interests encompassed literature, politics, global economics, the New York Yankees, Denver Broncos and much more.  He could talk about all of these subjects with equal knowledge and enthusiasm and he maintained a keen intellect and curiosity throughout his life. He was a practical man, some might even say he was a serious man, but Ed always had a ready laugh and a generous spirit, especially when his grandchildren (and grand-dogs) were around. For family and those who knew him, the world is diminished by his passing.   

The family wishes to thank the medical, spiritual, and support teams at: the CMC; Seneca wing of Kendal’s Taughannock House; Forest Home Chapel; and Hospicare.  The kind and loving care you extended to Ed (and us) turned a scary, uncharted event into an amazing, peaceful sail; his was a fortunate life to the very last breath.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to either the IP-CALS or the Mann Library at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, 14853.