In college, Malcolm Manners saw his share of “really good” and “really bad” professors. When he decided to become a professor himself, he tried to use the best ones as his pattern. “They could catch a student’s interest and educate rather than preach,” he recalls.
Manners just began his 40th year as an educator at Florida Southern College (FSC) in Lakeland, where he is the citrus and horticultural science program coordinator. FSC has produced numerous Florida citrus production managers and other leaders; many studied under Manners. Judging by some of their comments (see “Former students say…” sidebar), Manners did an excellent job emulating his top teachers.
“He invests himself in the lives of students both in and out of the classroom,” says Tim Hurner, a past FSC professor of citrus and former Highlands County citrus Extension agent. Hurner says Manners “was very much a professor for students to learn (from) and later apply what they had learned. Alumni of the department often return to campus to visit or seek his wisdom on projects they may be working on.”
ROOTS IN THE GARDEN
“My parents were gardeners in Pennsylvania,” Manners says, explaining the birth of his interest in horticulture. “I grew up in that culture of growing things.” When his family moved to Florida, “I learned to bud citrus in our backyard,” he says. He cemented his horticultural roots further by working in ornamental nurseries as a teenager.
Manners ultimately wound up with a doctorate in horticultural science from the University of Florida (UF). Before getting his doctorate, though, he learned about the citrus and horticulture program at FSC from the late Larry Jackson, one of his UF professors and an FSC citrus program alumnus. Manners became an instructor at FSC in 1981 and has been there since.
READYING STUDENTS FOR THE REAL WORLD
Manners’ students plant and caretake citrus trees on campus, and they do a professional internship, usually the summer between their junior and senior years, with a company in the industry. “The program is very much hands on,” he says. “The whole idea is when they graduate, they’re ready to go into the citrus industry at a management level.”
Like all FSC students in the past decade, Manners’ charges get a chance to see a chunk of the world. As part of the college’s Junior Journey program, Manners has led students to South Africa, Alaska and Scotland. In addition to the Junior Journey program, he has taken citrus students on tours of the Brazilian and California citrus industries in years past.
Manners says he has taught hundreds of students over 39 years. “I always thought it was a great privilege to get to know those people who have become leaders in the citrus industry,” he says.
Now 65, Manners plans to continue working for several more years. But since he’s the only full-time citrus and horticultural science professor at FSC, he’d like a replacement on board before retiring. “I would like to get somebody else on staff to overlap me by a few years so the departmental legacy can continue,” he says.
“I’m optimistic about the citrus industry,” he concludes. “I think we’re facing HLB well; I think we’ll lick it.” Like many others, he believes the solution to HLB will be development of trees that are resistant to the disease.