Mannon Gallegly turns 90 next year. A lifelong professor and researcher, Gallegly retired as director of the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences at WVU in 1986. He’s outlived many of his first students. Yet today, 26 years following his “retirement,” you can find Gallegly stooping around the WVU Organic Research Farm off Route 705 picking tomatoes and dumping them into plastic sacks. After a couple of hours of thumbing through vines, Gallegly takes the baseball-sized tomatoes he’s collected to his lab on the Evansdale campus. There he removes the seeds from each tomato—by hand.

Written by Jake Stump / Photographs by Brian Persinger / Video Production by Kelly Heasley

These are no ordinary tomatoes he’s devoting so much time to. These are tomatoes that Gallegly bred and developed himself: a West Virginia innovation with roots planted as far back as 1950. He was 27 then.

In June 1949, Gallegly, fresh out of the University of Wisconsin with a PhD in plant pathology, was hired at WVU as an assistant professor. Upon his arrival, he was charged with researching vegetable diseases, including tomato blight.