Mike Hanna was born in London, England in 1932 and received a BSA (Agronomy) in 1952. Following graduate work at UBC he received an MSc (Agronomy) in 1955. He then moved to the US and received a PhD (Agronomy) from the University of Wisconsin in 1958.
After graduation from Wisconsin, Dr Hanna and family settled in Lethbridge, Alberta, where he spent his entire working career as a Research Scientist at the Agriculture Canada Research Station. His research on forage legumes was mainly with alfalfa, particularly on the development of varieties with resistance to bacterial wilt, stem nematode, and verticillium wilt diseases. The varieties Kane, Trek and Barrier were released under this program, the last-named being the first Canadian variety with resistance to verticillium wilt. A breeding program with sainfoin, a non-bloat-inducing legume, led to the development of the varieties Melrose and Nova. Dr Hanna was the author or co-author of 40 scientific publications and more than 90 miscellaneous publications, including farmers’ bulletins on management of alfalfa and sainfoin for hay, pasture and seed production, and other technology transfer releases.
During his career he served in various capacities on numerous provincial, regional, national and international scientific and technical committees, including: the Alberta Alfalfa Seed Committee, of which he was chairman for 13 years; the cooperative legume testing program for Western Canada, for which he was coordinator for 9 years; the Plant Breeders’ Committee of the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association; the Alberta Forage Advisory Committee; both the Honours and Awards Committee and the Variety Certification Committee of the North American Alfalfa Improvement Conference; and Agriculture Canada’s Expert Committee on Forage Crops. He served for three years as an Associate Editor of the Canadian Journal of Plant Science. He was chairman of the committee that organized the Alfalfa Improvement Conference held at Lethbridge in 1984.
In 1972-73 Dr Hanna spent a year on a scientific exchange, working in Romania’s Agricultural Research Institute (the ICCPT) at Fundulea on the cytology, breeding and management of sainfoin. In 1979 he received a travel grant from Agriculture Canada, spending 6 weeks in France to study problems relating to verticillium wilt of alfalfa, with particular reference to techniques for screening seedling plants for resistance to this disease.
Dr Hanna received several awards for his research achievements. In 1953-55, he was awarded a National Research Council of Canada Bursary to undertake his Master’s research at UBC. While at Lethbridge, he received a Heritage Award from the Alberta Alfalfa Seed Producers’ Association for service to the alfalfa seed industry. He was also granted a Life Membership by the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association.
Dr Hanna has several stories and reminiscences relating to his time at UBC. “I had only just turned 16 when I left Victoria, where I had graduated from Oak Bay High School, to attend UBC. I was a city boy who knew less than nothing about agriculture and I have little idea how I wound up as an Aggie, except that I had a vague notion that it might lead to a job where I could work inside in the winter and outside in the summer. By the time I reached my graduating year in the Faculty of Agriculture, Dr Brink was beginning to exert an influence on my life that has lasted to this day. He convinced me that there were jobs in agriculture where you didn’t have to know how to milk a cow or drive a tractor, and he successfully guided me up a path that led to a very rewarding and fascinating career in research. Nobody could match him for such an incredibly diverse range of interests in plants, animals, geology…in fact, in almost any area one could think of. I seem to recall that he even had a hand in trying to introduce lobsters into West Coast waters. As another alumnus, Bill Pringle, mentions in his biography, “time has dulled the old memory”, and much of my 6 years at UBC seems to have receded into the dim past. The Ag field trip through BC, the annual “Farmers’ Frolic” and other social activities, plus excellent courses given by a varied cast of professors – somehow it all blends together. I didn’t realize what great times those were until long after they had passed me by. Of course, I did enjoy stealing Mary out from under Dean Eagles’ nose. We retired to Victoria in 1990 and spend our time boating, camping, Scottish Country Dancing, getting together with our grandchildren, and enjoying the companionship of our standard poodle, “Cinderella”.”
As mentioned above, Dr Hanna married Mary (nee Wilson), who was a secretary in the Dean’s office, Faculty of Agriculture. He met her when he returned to UBC to start graduate studies after spending a year in Kenya on his aunt’s farm. “I first invited Mary out on a date on a dare from a fellow student!” Dr and Mrs Hanna reside in Victoria, BC, and they have 3 sons Robert (Toronto), Kenneth (Lethbridge), Russell (Calgary) and 4 grandchildren.