Kenneth Deahl '65 -- 2011 Alumnus of Achievement

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Each year the Fairmont State Alumni Association receives countless nominations for their Homecoming awards. This year we are proud to present awards to six remarkable alumni. To submit a nomination, e-mail Emily Swain, Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving, at

Dr. Kenneth Deahl attended Fairmont State on a full academic scholarship and graduated with honors, receiving his bachelor’s in biology in 1965. Dr. Deahl continued his education at West Virginia University, where he earned a masters and a PhD in plant pathology and agricultural microbiology. He was recruited by the United States Department of Agriculture out of graduate school because of his extensive work in biochemistry and the nature of disease resistance, and is currently a leading research plant pathologist/microbiologist with the USDA.  He is the leader in recognizing serious problems in disease control when major problems occur consecutively in crops.   His expertise has allowed him to discover that the root problem of these epidemics in crops is something called fungal pathogens. Dr. Deahl is the world’s leading expert in dealing with what is called Phytophthora Infestans .  This fungus was also referred to as Late blight and incited The Irish Potato Famine in the mid 1800s.  This epidemic caused the starvation of 8 million people. Dr. Deahl’s discovery has led him to implement new ways to control such epidemics both here in the United States and abroad.  His research has contributed to indentifying food toxins and even mushroom toxins that cause fatal lung disease in mushroom workers.  Dr. Deahl has led international teams in Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada, Russia, UK, Uruguay, and Taiwan that characterized the novel fungal pathogens that were causing the severe epidemic in their countries. He led workshops at the World Vegetable Center at Tainan Taiwan, R.O.C., National Chungshin Univ. (Taichung) and National Taiwan University (Taipei).

Dr. Deahl has also studied molecular biology, since it deals with the molecular basis of biological activity and this field overlaps with his interest and experience in microbiology, pathology and biochemistry. His initial experiments in molecular biology chiefly concerned the understanding of the interactions between the various systems of the cell, including the interactions between the different types of DNA, RNAand protein biosynthesisas well as learning how these interactions are regulated in the diseased environment.

Dr. Deahl is the author of over 100 scientific manuscripts and papers, and books chapters. He holds 3 patents on disease resistance genes. Theses professional contributions in education, research, professional practice, and service are recognized for their quality and depth.

Dr. Deahl lives in Maryland with his wife, Rebecca.  He enjoys spending time with his wife, his children and grandchildren, and feels that his greatest reward in his life is family.

About this story: This story was featured in the Summer 2011 edition of maroon & white. Click here to view this edition. To request a paper copy contact Beth Martin at (304) 367-4009.