Kriton Hatzios, who, as director of the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, oversaw Virginia Tech's rise to the top ranks of universities engaged in agricultural research, died today. He was 53.
"Dr. Hatzios was a most outstanding scientist, one of the best at Virginia Tech and recognized internationally for his research," said Andy Swiger, the university's former dean of agriculture. "He showed great promise as an administrative leader with a brilliant career in his future. Losing Kriton in mid-career is heartbreaking to his family, to the Blacksburg community, and to the academic professionals at Virginia Tech."
Hatzios joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 1979 after earning his doctorate at Michigan State University. In 1997 he became head of Virginia Tech's Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science. In 1999 he was named head of the Experiment Station and associate dean for research with the university's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station is part of a nationwide research network allied to the system of land-grant institutions. As head of the Experiment Station, Hatzios oversaw the work of about 300 researchers associated with Virginia Tech. In addition to the facilities on the Blacksburg campus, he also supervised a system of 13 regional agricultural research and extension centers statewide.
Hatzios emphasized mission-oriented basic research that increased fundamental knowledge yet helped to solve problems facing selected crop commodities grown in Virginia and the U.S.
Under his leadership, Virginia Tech was recognized as No. 7 among all universities nationally in agricultural and natural resources research as reported by the National Science Foundation. The $63.8 million spent on agricultural and natural resources research and development accounted for one-third of the research expenditures at Virginia Tech.
Hatzios' professional reputation was as a leading researcher internationally in the area of chemical manipulation of crop tolerance to herbicides as well as in the areas of herbicide action and metabolism. He authored or co-authored well over 360 scholarly articles, books or book chapters, reviews and monographs.
He received numerous awards, most recently being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2001. His other awards include the Southern Weed Science Society's 1997 Scientist of the Year Award; the Weed Science Society's 1995 Fellow Award, 1994 Outstanding Research Award, and 1986 Young Weed Scientist Award; and the 1985 Outstanding Faculty Research Award from the Virginia Tech chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, the agriculture honor society.
A native of Florina, Greece, Hatzios was nationalized as a U.S. citizen in 1985.
He was faculty adviser to the Hellenic Student Association; he presented numerous talks on Greek culture to public schools in Montgomery and Floyd counties; he was founder and host of the WUVT-FM program on Greek music that aired weekly; and he was founder and president of the Hellenic Society Paideia of Virginia.
Among his survivors are his wife, Maria, and two daughters, Adamantia K. Hatzios and Stavroula-Artemis K. Hatzios.