This past fall, Dr. Ellen Peffley Harp was honored by her alma mater New Mexico State University as an Outstanding Alumna of the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department. After graduating with three degrees from NMSU, Peffley went on to lead an enormously successful teaching and research career, including more than two decades with the TTU Department of Plant and Soil Science.
Peffley was presented with the award at the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences' virtual homecoming event in October 2020.
From NMSU to TTU
A New Mexico native, Peffley attended New Mexico State University for a bachelor's degree in Horticulture in 1977, a master's degree in Horticulture in 1981, and a Ph.D. in Agronomy in 1985.
She first joined the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Texas Tech University as a visiting assistant professor in 1984 and continued on to teach horticulture classes such as introductory horticulture, vegetable production, and graduate plant breeding. Throughout her time at Tech, she directed 19 graduate students and developed "Gardens of Europe" - a series of Study Abroad classes - organizing and leading trips to England, France, and Italy. Peffley was the first woman in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources to advance through promotion and tenure to the rank of full professor.
Research & Legacy
In addition to her outstanding teaching program, Peffley developed a strong research and breeding program, including research fellowships at the Plant Breeding Institute in Wageningen, The Netherlands, and Horticulture Research International in Wellesbourne, United Kingdom. Her research emphases included molecular marker development to track introgression of elite germplasm in Allium, guar breeding, tissue culture, developing transgenic cotton lines, and hydroponic vegetable culture for space travel. While on the faculty she generated $3.5 million in external funding, patented a transformation process, has two guar plant variety protection certificates, and has trademarked five onion cultivars. She led a collaborative team working with NASA's Advanced Life Sciences program researching onions as a sustainable fresh food supply for astronauts on extended missions.
While at Texas Tech University, Peffley won numerous teaching awards, including the Chancellor's Council Award for Distinguished Teaching, and is the only woman to have been inducted into the Department of Plant and Soil Science Hall of Fame.
At New Mexico State University, Dr. Peffley - along with other benefactors of the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department - established the Women in Science Endowed Scholarship. She also established the Ellen Peffley Current Use Scholarship for Horticulture.
After her retirement from teaching in 2008, Peffley was the sole proprietor for her gardening business, From the Garden, and is currently a Professor Emerita of Horticulture for the Department of Plant and Soil Science. Even Lubbockites who don't know Dr. Peffley from her time at Texas Tech and involvement with PSS might recognize her from her ongoing weekly column in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.