Growing Gifts: Remembering Dr. Robert Hanneman

Hanneman, Bob and BettyWhen 9-year-old Anna Tilghman needed a subject for her elementary school science report, she chose the potato.

“Considering who her grandfather was, it didn’t surprise me a bit,” said Betty Hanneman, Anna’s grandmother.

Betty Hanneman established the Robert Hanneman Memorial Scholarship in 2003 in memory of her husband, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and U.S. Department of Agriculture geneticist whose discoveries have proven to be among the most important in U.S. agriculture—especially to fans of the potato.

Endosperm Balance Number was Hanneman’s trademark tool. This genetic formula was an effective method for determining how to best crossbreed economically efficient wild potatoes. Its discovery was a boon to growers. Thanks to Hanneman, they were able to use species already flourishing in their area instead of slogging through the complicated cross-breeding process. Today, Endosperm Balance Number is an industry mainstay that has also been adapted for other plant families. This measuring tool is taught to nearly every horticulture science student in the country.

“I was always thankful he loved his job so much,” Betty Hanneman said of her husband, who died in 2002. Hanneman Hall, Maranatha’s primary science and nursing class facility, is named after him.

Hanneman was saved at age 8 at a summer Bible camp. He was a deacon at Calvary Baptist Church in Watertown and spent 12 years on Maranatha’s Board of Trustees (1990-2002). The Hannemans’ two children both graduated from Maranatha Baptist Academy.

“At least one of his colleagues and one of his students have told me they accepted Christ because of Bob’s testimony,” Betty Hanneman said.

Betty Hanneman established the Memorial Scholarship in her husband’s memory. It provides up to $1,000 each year for a junior or senior “who has made a commitment to making Bible-based science a significant part of his or her ministry,” according to the scholarship’s qualifications.

“I really wanted to help students who had a need and were genuinely interested in scientific work,” Betty Hanneman said.

Emily Mackey was the 2010 recipient. The senior biology major from Bergen, NY, is applying to graduate schools and plans to become a physician assistant.

“I’ve had so many classes in Hanneman Hall,” Mackey said. “Getting to know Mrs. Hanneman was a blessing, and the scholarship was a huge help.”

If you would consider encouraging future Christian leaders while honoring the memory of a dedicated servant by funding a memorial scholarship, please call Maranatha’s Development Office at 920-206-2325, email or go online to