Janet Henderson Cole passed away on Sept. 27, 2021, at the age of 62 after a long battle with breast cancer. Cole was a retired Regents Professor Emeritus from Oklahoma State University (OSU).
As a valued NALP member, Cole served as the Educator representative on the International Certification Council (ICC) from 2015–2021 and was a member of the Exterior Technician Task Force from 2017-2020.
“My introduction to Janet was through committee involvement in 2017,” says Margo Rash, director of professional services and programs for NALP. “From the beginning, it was evident she would be a ‘strategic partner’. Possessing comprehensive educational and research expertise, Janet’s knowledge was of significant value during the development of the Plant Identification section within the Exterior Technician exam.”
While that section of the test traditionally used plants local to the state, Cole quickly saw the challenges of administering that within the new all-written platform. It was her idea to organize the test along with the plant selection by region.
“What an asset she was to certification…and very instrumental in where we are with the written test today,” says David Hupman, ICC chair.
Cole earned her bachelor’s degree in commercial economics and horticulture from South Dakota State University in 1981. She received her master’s degree from Kansas State University in 1984 and her Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 1988.
She joined OSU’s faculty in 1988. As a professor at OSU, she taught nursery production and arboriculture. She eventually became the head of the department of horticulture and landscape architecture for OSU as well.
As the department head her primary role was to help educators, researchers and specialists maximize the available resources in ways that ultimately provide the greatest benefit to OSU’s students and stakeholders.
“There are not enough words to adequately describe Dr. Janet Henderson Cole’s influence on my life,” says Cheryl Boyer, a former student of Cole’s. “She taught me so much: horticulture, how to invest in others, how academia works, how to be a scientist and a teacher, how to think critically, how to be patient and turn a problem around until you find a way through…she never denied me an answer, even if the answer was ‘I don’t know about that one.’ It is her voice in my head when I need to think through difficult challenges. When I need to settle down and be calm, Janet is the picture in my mind. She is a huge source of strength for me.”
Cole became a certified pesticide applicator in 1989, certified by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. She became a certified professional horticulturist in 1993 by the American Society of Horticultural Science. She became an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist in 1998.
Cole was known for her work in sustainable nursery production practices. She researched disease control, drought response of various species and propagation of difficult to root species.
She was instrumental in working with faculty from the University of Arkansas, Mississippi State University, and Louisiana State University to create the Alliance for Cooperative Course Exchange in the Plant Sciences (ACCEPtS) to share plant science courses among institutions via the internet.
Throughout her life, Cole received recognition from many organizations for her work as a teacher.
She received the CASNR Award for Excellence in Student Mentoring in 2004 and the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Teacher Fellow Award in 2005. Cole was awarded the OSU Ag Alumni Association Exemplary Faculty Award in 2010 and the Gamma Sigma Delta Teaching Award of Merit in 2013.
Cole also became a Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science in 2009. She earned the society’s Outstanding Undergraduate Educator Award in 2004.
In 2019, she received Herman Hinrichs Pecan Citation Award presented by the Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association for her contributions to the Oklahoma Pecan Industry.
Cole has been described as imaginative, always giving and having an eye for details. She is survived by her husband William Cole.