An Aggie Tradition
As a UC Davis graduate student in 1975, Tim Croughan invited his younger sister, Mary, to come to campus and enjoy Picnic Day. It was a fateful visit, because it began a lifelong love of the university for Mary, who now serves as UC Davis’ provost and executive vice chancellor, and it set the trajectory for more family members to join the Aggie family.
Anchoring the Croughan Aggie tradition are direct connections involving a half-dozen family members — and great appreciation for how UC Davis has prepared them for their careers and their lives.
As an undergraduate, Mary was able to design her own major in community health, including taking master’s-level courses in the School of Veterinary Medicine. She said she became fully aware of how well her UC Davis education prepared her for her career after entering the Ph.D. program in epidemiology at Johns Hopkins. She went on to spend three decades at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine and also served in the UC Office of the President. She didn’t expect to need her public health expertise to be the UC Davis provost, but it has proven extremely helpful in the pandemic, especially her UC Davis infectious disease training.
Tim earned his master’s and Ph.D. in agronomy and plant physiology, respectively, from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. As a graduate student, he established a new course, “Agricultural Science and the World Food Crisis.” Several hundred students, including Mary, learned about the root causes of world hunger. Tim’s career was devoted to research that would contribute to ending world hunger by developing new non-GMO varieties of rice that are more nutritious, productive, culturally appropriate and able to grow under harsh conditions. His most famous variety is Clearfield rice, which is grown across the world.
Tim met his future wife, Sue Stavarek Croughan, when they worked in the same Hunt Hall laboratory. Sue earned her bachelor’s in botany and her master’s and Ph.D. in plant physiology from UC Davis, launching her research career on soybeans and grasses. Like Tim, she was a professor and researcher at Louisiana State University’s Agriculture Experiment Station until her retirement.
Tim and Mary’s late sister, Shelley Booth, spent her career at Davis, working in the Department of Botany and later in Undergraduate Admissions. She is remembered for her energy and numerous contributions to the university and the city of Davis, including advocating for diversity and helping to start the Davis Science Center, now known as the Explorit Science Center. The UC Davis Arboretum has a bench in her honor.
Shelley’s husband, Earl Booth, earned his bachelor’s degree in plant science at UC Davis, having arrived as a 30-year-old reentry student who was married with two young sons. He worked half-time as a work-study student and was hired full-time to run the Foundation Seed Program before he graduated. The FSP is a self-supporting, not-for-profit program that serves as the liaison between plant breeders and certified seed growers in California and beyond. After a full career there, Earl retired from the university.
Mary’s daughter Áine and son-in-law Abram Smith both received their bachelor’s degrees from UC Davis, in Native American studies and political science, respectively. Áine was afforded the unique opportunity to connect with her ancestral roots and has since led a cause-driven career steeped in empathy and helping others in the nonprofit sector. Abram honed his written and oral communications skills and now sits squarely at the intersection of public policy and media relations, consulting for several of the Bay Area’s blue-chip tech companies.
Finally, Mary’s youngest daughter received her bachelor’s degree and is now pursuing a graduate degree at UC Davis. For nearly three years, she also has worked as a student researcher for the vet school doing global health research, resulting in a publication last year. Undoubtedly, attending UC Davis has been useful to the careers and lives of these Croughan family members. But was it fun?
Though they were dedicated students, they also took advantage of the university’s extracurricular opportunities, and each of them has held onto special memories. As an undergraduate, Mary played on an intramural softball team with brother-in-law Earl, and they won the championship in 1982. Mary also loved her three years as a peer counselor at The House and playing innertube water polo at Hickey Pool.
Earl loved seeing the first 10-acre field of seed germinate for Foundation Seed, as well as developing personal relationships with seed growers and traveling throughout the U.S. While a graduate student, Tim took brewing classes that provided knowledge and training for another endeavor, the Croughan Paige Brewery in downtown Davis, which was among the first brewpubs in California. Tim and Sue loved Friday afternoon seminars in 204 Hunt Hall, followed by volleyball in the courtyard. Son-in-law Abram was active in his fraternity and played intramural sports, and daughter Áine rode on the 3-Day Eventing Team, helping to start the Western U.S. Collegiate 3-Day Eventing Association. The high school sweethearts only grew closer during their time at UC Davis and are now proud parents of future Aggies Tadhg (age 2) and Nóra (6 months).
These and other memories regularly pop up in family conversations. It is partly because of them, along with the career advantages they received and their belief in UC Davis, that all of these family members are proud to be called Aggies.