Seago Legacy Gift Brings Future Into Focus

In a career that has spanned 46 years in the Oswego biology department, James Seago, Ph.D., has been recognized twice by the Botanical Society of America. He received an award in 2004 for outstanding contributions to the botanical sciences and another in 2006 for exemplary service to the plant sciences. He is nationally known for plant research, respected by colleagues for his professionalism and revered by students and alumni for his high standards and mentorship.

James and Marilyn Seago

James Seago, Ph.D., and Marilyn Seago stand at the Zeiss LSM 700 microscope after viewing a cross section of spearmint stem, one of the slides Seago is creating for his research.

“I am where I am today because of the excellent students I have taught,” Seago says. “All I have done is give them opportunities to succeed.”

In this year before retirement, Seago has announced plans to ensure opportunities for success for Oswego students and members of the faculty who conduct research using the revolutionary Zeiss LSM700 confocal microscope in the Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation.

Features of the Zeiss include laser confocal scanning, 3D image stacking, fluorescence and differential interference contrast.

“With full support from my wife, Marilyn, I am including a gift to Oswego in my will,” Seago says. “That gift will support the fund I have established for the maintenance and refurbishment of the microscope.” Annual maintenance amounts to approximately $15,000.

The fund, launched with Seago’s personal gift in the spring of 2013, has already been increased by private giving from an alumna, to honor Seago, and by an anonymous donor. Seago said the purpose of the fund is threefold: 1. To maintain service on the state-of-the-art instrument, 2. To provide funding for students who use it to prepare research for conference presentations, and 3. To provide honoraria for guest scholars.

The Seagos’ legacy gift is an extension of their contributions to Oswego throughout the years. Marilyn formerly taught science in the Oswego Campus School, then worked for the office of admissions until her retirement.

James came to Oswego from the University of Illinois, where he completed his doctoral thesis and defense after having already begun teaching. His master of arts in botany is from Miami University, Ohio.

As a biology undergratuate at Knox College, Seago was, he says, “sometimes a better athlete than a scholar.” He was a standout on the track team, and he also played basketball in high school and college and ran cross-country in high school, a situation that led to what he calls “the most fortunate incident” of his life.

At Oswego, Seago was recruited to coach cross-country. The athletic director suggested Seago talk to someone in admissions to establish recruitment procedures.

“I walked to the admissions office. They assigned me to Marilyn. We started talking. We kept talking and before I left, I asked her for a date,” Seago says. “That was Sept. 7. We were married that Thanksgiving.”

Seago recalls a host of former students who are making significant contributions to the sciences today. Among them is Joseph Armstrong ’70, professor of botany at Illinois State University, Normal.

“Jim has been my role model since 1968, his first year at Oswego,” Armstrong says. “He gave me challenging, open-ended research projects that assured me I had aptitude for investigation. He guided me with a stern hand into graduate school, recommending me to his mentor, Charles Heimsch at Miami, with whom I then did my master’s degree.”

Seago says Oswego continues to graduate outstanding scientists, and the Zeiss LMS700, properly maintained, will serve students for generations.

“Marilyn and I have been lucky in our lives,” Seago says. “We are pleased to know this fund will make certain that amazing opportunities for inquiry will continue at Oswego.”

—Linda Loomis ’90 M ’97

To learn how you can include SUNY Oswego in your estate plans, visit or call 315-312-3003.

Dr. James Seago, standing, and Dr. Richard Edelmann ’86, director of the Center for Advanced Microscopy and Imaging at Miami University, Ohio, watch images on screen as Sarah Blanton ’14 examines a specimen.


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