Carl Gortzig ’52, professor emeritus and chair of the former Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture, died June 2 at the Oak Hill Manor Nursing Home in Ithaca. He was 87.
Gortzig was also the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director Emeritus of Cornell Botanic Gardens, formerly Cornell Plantations.
His research covered floriculture economics and marketing. He worked closely with the floriculture industry in New York state, and with the faculty in the former Department of Agricultural, Resource and Managerial Economics, including the late Dana Goodrich, distinguished emeritus professor.
“In a period where basic civility is daily being challenged, Carl Gortzig was a true gentleman; he treated all people, regardless of their role, with dignity and respect,” said Don Rakow, M.P.S. ’77, Ph.D. ’87, associate professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. “He was devoted to the field of horticulture, to Cornell and to his beloved wife, Jean.”
After receiving his bachelor’s in floriculture and ornamental horticulture, the Buffalo, New York, native received his M.S. in 1963 and Ph.D. in 1976, both from Michigan State University.
He served in the United States Army as a first lieutenant from 1952 to 1954; taught biology, botany and math at the McKinley Vocational High School in Buffalo from 1954 to 1955; worked as an Erie County associate agricultural agent from 1955 to 1964; and was employed by Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as an admissions counselor from 1957 to 1958. He joined Cornell’s faculty in 1965, earned tenure in 1971 and was promoted to full professor in 1978.
Gortzig chaired the Department of Floriculture and Ornamental Horticulture from 1975 to 1988.
“Carl was a true Cornellian and incredibly dedicated to our land-grant mission,” said Joann Gruttadaurio ’73, M.P.S. ’79, who served as a horticulture extension educator during much of Gortzig’s career. “While he was supportive of our teaching and research roles, what made him unique as a department chair and leader was his enthusiastic backing for faculty involved in extension and outreach. Those efforts resulted in huge impacts on commercial and home horticulture and 4-H youth programs, and earned him the respect of the industries, communities and citizens we served as well as the university administration.”
Gortzig also held a joint appointment at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, where he was acting director from 1989 to 1990 and the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director from 1993 until his retirement in 1995.
For years after retirement, he continued to teach Introduction to Horticultural Science, and Horticultural Sales and Service Business Management. He also continued to serve on a number of university committees and as a consultant to the Cornell Botanic Gardens Advisory Board.
In 1989, he received the George L. Good Gold Medal of Horticulture, the highest honor of the New York State Nursery and Landscape Association, given annually “to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to horticulture in the state of New York.”
He was a member of the American Society for Horticulture Science, International Society for Horticultural Science, American Horticulture Society, Society of American Florists, New York Florists’ Club, International Plant Propagators Society and an honorary member of the New York State Flower Industries.
He is survived by his wife, Jean.
Arrangements for a memorial service will be announced at a later date.