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KU community remembers Rolf Borchert, professor emeritus of plant physiology

Friday, December 01, 2017

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas community is remembering a longtime professor of plant physiology.

Rolf Borchert, professor emeritus, died Nov. 23 in Lawrence at age 84. A visitation took place Nov. 28 in Lawrence.

“I am saddened to learn of the death of Rolf Borchert, a professor of plant physiology who worked for 34 years at KU and shared his love of learning with numerous students and colleagues,” said Chancellor Douglas A. Girod. “On behalf of the entire university, I offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends and to all who knew him during his time at KU.”

Borchert was a professor at KU from 1968 to 2002 and more recently a professor emeritus who researched tree growth patterns and flowering periodicity in dry, tropical forests. 

“Rolf was a highly accomplished plant biologist who helped us to understand how trees time synchronous flowering in the tropics using subtle changes in light cues,” said Joy Ward, Dean's Professor in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and interim associate dean of science research in the College.

Among his most notable publications was an article in Nature describing how synchronous flowering among trees near the equator is controlled by subtle differences in photoperiod with respect to sunrise or sunset times.

“He was also a wonderful colleague and mentor who took time to help me think through my own research when I was a new faculty member," Ward said. "I especially enjoyed traveling with him and his wife, Laura, in Costa Rica to conduct plant research.” 

Borchert led KU study abroad programs in Costa Rica and in his native Germany.

“Rolf lived life to the fullest and was a great example of how to balance research and family,” Ward said. “He will be greatly missed."