Robert Hagan, who retired as a UC Davis professor of water science in 1987 after being associated with the university for
50 years, died on July 3 following complications from a stroke suffered in April. He was 85 years old.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 27, at Davis Community Church, 412 C Street.
Professionally, Hagan was deeply committed to furthering communication between water experts and public citizens,
planners and policy-makers. Privately, he served the Davis community in many ways -- as a co-founder of International
House, a support program for foreign students and scholars, and as a member of Rotary International.
In 1992, Hagan was named with his late wife, Rachel Knapp Hagan, to receive the city of Davis' Covell Award as Co-Citizen
of the Year, one of many recognitions of his lifetime of public service.
He was also praised for his classroom activities. In 1979, his UC Davis students gave him the Magnar Ronning Award for
teaching excellence. "I try to encourage my students to think of how they would solve the related problems if they were in a
position of authority," Hagan said then. "I constantly emphasize applications to problems of the real world." Many of his
students have become leading scientists and farmers in California and arid countries all over the world.
An expert in the relationships between plants, water and soil, Hagan first came to UC Davis in 1937, when he was 21, as an
associate in the botany department's agricultural station. In 1939, he transferred to work in UC Berkeley's soils department.
There he received his master's degree in soil physics in 1942.
World War II intervened. Hagan spent six years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army as an ROTC instructor teaching
military science and tactics to cadets at Berkeley. In 1948, he received his doctorate in soils and plant physiology from UC
Davis and joined the faculty.
He worked to find common ground between agricultural water users and environmental groups in disputes over water
development and resource management. He served on science advisory committees to the U.S. president, California
governor, World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation and many other institutions. In 1977, he co-founded the
Water Education Foundation, a water-education organization for the western United States.
"Bob had the idea that Westerners could benefit from an organization that reported facts about water issues," said Rita
Sudman, the foundation's executive director. "When the foundation came under attack from special interests, Bob was
outspoken about supporting the unbiased reporting of water controversies. On May 30, he attended our 25th anniversary,
and it was wonderful to see how happy he was that the foundation had achieved a well-respected reputation."
Hagan's knowledge of irrigation, particularly in arid lands, made him an international authority. He worked with water
scientists, officials and other policy-makers in the former Soviet Union, India, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. In 1964,
he was named coordinator and adviser on foreign activities for the UC Davis College of Agriculture.
He said that his warm reception on foreign trips, on which he was often accompanied by his wife, led him to believe that "we
in the United States have a responsibility to be much more hospitable to our foreign guests." So he helped found the
International House at UC Davis to welcome and support foreign students and scholars.
Rae Hagan died in 1996 after 57 years of marriage. Robert Hagan died at University Retirement Center on July 3. He is
survived by his companion, Gennie Riddle of Davis, and two sons and their families, including four grandchildren and one
The family suggests memorial contributions be made to International House, 10 College Park, Davis, Calif. 95616, or the Water
Education Foundation, (916) 444-6240.