When Walter Chenoweth set up his gas plate and some pots and pans in the basement of Wilder Hall over 100 years ago, he may not have envisioned the thriving and innovative department that would later blossom. Over the years, the UMass Food Science program has transformed into one of the world's strongest of its kind. At the end of September, the department celebrated its 100th anniversary with a weekend of alumni activities that included a reception and dinner in the Student Union Ballroom and tours of Chenoweth Laboratory and food-related activities.
At the dinner, campus officials addressed the gathering, including Kumble R. Subbaswamy, UMass Amherst chancellor; John J. McCarthy, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs; Tricia R. Serio, dean of the College of Natural Sciences, and professor Eric Decker, the department head. Video presentations offered congratulations from U.S. Representative James McGovern and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Alumni, faculty, students, and families enjoyed a weekend of milestone celebrations and reunions, and exciting events including canning demonstrations in the Pilot Plant, a history of chocolate paired with tastings, and a scavenger hunt beginning from the Chenoweth Laboratory.
Walter Chenoweth began teaching and demonstrating food preservation at UMass at a moment when World War I pointed out the problem with food shortages. The staff of the College was mobilized to engage in food production and conservation. Their efforts progressed so well that in 1917 Waugh petitioned the campus's board of trustees to found the Department of Horticultural Manufactures. Permission was granted on April 27, 1918, and on that date the nation's first "food science" department was born.
Entrepreneurial thinking and innovation, timing and seizing opportunities, a sense of daring to try something new, recognizing needs and providing solutions, visionary faculty – the qualities that make UMass Amherst Food Science the top program in the nation today were there from the very start.
UMass Amherst’s Food Science program remains one of the world’s pre-eminent food science programs.
The National Research Council’s evaluation placed the program at the top of its rankings in 2010, and by many other measures it continues to garner awards and high rankings. The PhD research program was ranked first in the U.S. by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.
The department has created alliances and centers to continue connecting their research with industry innovation, food policy, and wellness. The Fergus Clydesdale Foods for Health and Wellness Center is supported by the federal government, food industry, and alumni. The Strategic Research Alliance created by the department has more than 20 industrial members, and the Food Science Policy Alliance addresses current and future issues of food policy and regulation for both domestic and international markets.
This leadership can be seen in the appointment of numerous faculty members in national leadership roles with the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, the FDA, the USDA, and the State Department.
As the UMass Food Science department heads into its second century, it is well equipped to remain at the forefront of the field.