Dr. Donald F. Rothwell

Donald F. Rothwell, University of Florida Professor Emeritus of Soil and Water Sciences, died on Tuesday, October 23, 2018 at Haven Hospice in Gainesville, Florida. Born October 21, 1920, in Brandon, Florida, Don was a native Floridian. He attended Brandon Elementary School and graduated from Plant High School in Tampa, Florida. Prior to enlisting in the Army in 1942, he was employed by the Florida Grower Press and the Seaboard Airline Railway. During World War II, Don was in both the 8th and 9th Air Forces of the Army Air Corps. Serving with the mobile 382nd Air Service Squadron as an airplane and engine electrician, he worked on P-47 fighter bomber aircraft, which included duties in England, France, Belgium, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. After landing on Omaha Beach as part of the D-Day offensive, his unit established the first temporary aircraft landing strip in Normandy at St. Pierre-du-Mont. Don later became a member of the D-Day Normandy Veterans of North Central Florida and attended the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, a very meaningful experience for him. Recently, in May 2018, the French government presented Don with the Chevalier da la Légion d’honneur (the French Legion of Honor) for his service liberating France. After discharge in December 1945, Don entered the University of Florida (UF) on the GI Bill where he received a BS in 1948 and MS in 1951. While an undergraduate, he met the love of his life, Virginia Susan Henderson, and married her in Tampa on June 7, 1947. Don began UF employment in 1948 as an instructor in the Soil Science Department in the College of Agriculture. In an exchange program, Don earned a Ph.D in Agronomy from Purdue University in 1955 before returning to UF in a tenure track position. In 1960 Don was awarded the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies (ORINS) Fellowship at the University of Tennessee–Atomic Energy Commission (UT-AEC) Agricultural Research Laboratory in Oakridge, Tennessee. There he conducted important Cold War research on the effects of nuclear radiation on agriculture and returned to Gainesville upon completion of the fellowship. In addition to instructing his own UF courses and doing research, Don coordinated Soils Department teaching activities for many years, serving as its undergraduate counselor and graduate student coordinator. His preference to teach and work with students over other aspects of academia led to a career delivering dozens of courses to more than 8,000 students. Don also advised several student organizations, including the Agronomy and Soils Club, the Alpha Zeta Honorary Society, and the Alpha Gamma Row Agricultural Fraternity of which he was Chapter Advisor and a member of the Board of Directors. In 2004, the fraternity named him “AGR Brother of the Century.” Don was Treasurer of the Florida Chapter of the Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society, President of the Florida Chapter Society of Sigma Xi, and President of the Soil and Crop Society of Florida. He was also a member of the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil Science Society of America, and the International Society of Soil Science. Don became a lifetime supporter of Gator football and basketball upon enrolling at UF and belonged to the Tipoff Club for many years. He retired from the University in March 1990 as Professor Emeritus of Soil and Water Sciences following 42 years of service. Since 1947, Don was active in the First United Methodist Church of Gainesville, serving on its Board of Trustees, Staff-Parrish Committee, Executive Board, and with the Methodist Men. He was also a Sunday School Superintendent and three-time President of the Cum Dubl Sunday School Class. Don was a member and Past-President of the Gainesville Civitan Club and Governor of the Florida District of Civitan International from 1967-68. He was a charter member of the Life-South Blood Center, a member of the Masonic Lodge for over 60 years, and a founder of Gainesville’s 300 Club. Always dedicated to family, Don was preceded in death by his wife, Virginia Rothwell, his parents, Alfred Rothwell and Mabel Rothwell Phillips, and a brother, Alfred Doel Rothwell. Survivors include two sons and their wives, Fred and Kim Rothwell of Manhattan, Kansas and Dr. Gary and Donna Rothwell of Kathleen, Georgia; two grandsons, Jason (Ryan) Rothwell of Overland Park, Kansas, and Brent (Allison) Rothwell of Littleton, Colorado; great-granddaughters Madelyn Rothwell and Delaney Rothwell; step-granddaughter Kelli Baker and her daughters Kaylah and Kylee Baker; step-great-grandson Rhett Horne; fraternal niece Doelene Brown of the Villages, Florida; and fraternal nephew Sonny Rothwell of Leesburg, Florida. Don’s Funeral Service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Thursday, November 1, 2018 at First United Methodist Church 419 NE 1st Street Gainesville, FL 32601.There will be a visitation Wednesday evening at the funeral home from 5-7 p.m. Entombment will be at Forest Meadows Central, Mausoleum Chapel, In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the First United Methodist Church of Gainesville.

Scroll to Top