If you’ve ever eaten a strawberry, the odds are that you’ve had a taste of Royce Bringhurst’s handiwork. This scholarship memorializes Royce’s distinguished career as a fruit researcher and Professor of Pomology at the University of California-Davis.
Royce S. Bringhurst was born Dec. 27, 1918, in Bennion, Salt Lake County, Utah. He graduated from Granite High School in 1937, and went on to attend Utah State College for two years. His studies were interrupted by 4 years of mission work with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Upon his return he married his high school sweetheart, Pearl Davidson. They were married until his death.
Shortly after getting married, he was called into service in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. In his service Bringhurst flew 65 combat missions in B-25 bombers over Italy, France and Germany as radioman, bombardier, photographer and navigator.
He went back to his studies after the war at Utah State University where he graduated in 1947 with a B.S. in Agronomy. From there he went on to obtain his master’s and doctorate degrees in Agronomy and Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1948 and 1950.
His first job after college was faculty position at UCLA as an avocado geneticist. He later moved to UC-Davis in 1953 to become a strawberry geneticist. At UC-Davis he served as chairman of the Pomology department for several years, and by the time of his retirement in 1989, Bringhurst was recognized as the world authority in strawberry breeding.
During his nearly four decades of work he developed over 30 strawberry varieties, which produced more than 75 percent of the nation’s strawberries. His work on day-neutral varieties changed the landscape of the strawberry industry and greatly extended the growing season. Some of the varieties more than quadrupled the annual yield per acre of this crop.
Bringhurst was honored as a Fellow in the American Society of Horticultural Science in 1970. At Utah State University he was awarded an honorary doctorate at its 100th commencement in 1993. He also consulted for the Ford Foundation, US AID, UN FAO and Argentina, Mexico, Italy, United Arab Republic and Egypt.
During his retirement, he and Pearl served as church service missionaries in Chile (1992-1994), where he trained Chilean farmers in fruit and berry production. A lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he served as the first bishop of the student ward in Davis, beginning in 1971. They also served as temple workers in the Oakland Temple for 18 years.
He enjoyed music and sang tenor with the Sacramento Symphony Choir; he also acted in local musical productions and was one of the original members of the Davis Comic Opera Company.
At the time of his death on November 28, 2005, Bringhurst had an extended family including his wife, Pearl; 6 children; 22 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.