International Poplar Commission
Oscar Fugalli was an extraordinarily dedicated expert, a loyal colleague and mentor to many foresters in Italy and abroad.
Oscar was born in Italy in 1922. He graduated from the Forestry Faculty of the State University of Florence, Italy, in 1945 and post graduate degree from the Forestry College of the New York State University, Syracuse, in 1948. On graduation, his professional career started with the Italian Forestry Service.
Oscar worked for FAO for 32 years. As a young professional he was seconded by the Italian Forest Service to FAO in 1951 during the difficult restoration period in Italy following the Second World War. He always considered himself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with FAO in stimulating and rewarding work, particularly with developing countries. He initially worked in the special section on forest policy with Mr René Fontaine, one of the founding fathers of FAO. He rose through the professional ranks to Chief, Forest Management Branch within the Forest Resources Division of the Forestry Department. He was instrumental in having the Secretariat of the International Poplar Commission placed within FAO and guided its activities as the Secretary for 20 years. Oscar was also instrumental in founding the FAO Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources, established in 1968 to provide leadership and guidance in this field. He served as Secretary of the FAO Committee on Mediterranean Forestry Questions Silva Mediterranea, encouraging forestry research projects in countries in the Mediterranean basin and supporting networking of research institutions and circum-Mediterranean projects. He was involved with all World Forestry Congresses held during his FAO career, and was appointed Associate Secretary General of the 8th WFC, assisting the Government of Indonesia to organize the event in Jakarta in 1978. He was later seconded by FAO as an advisor in forestry economics to CILSS, the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, until his retirement in 1982.
Throughout his FAO career, Oscar forged stronger links between IUFRO and FAO, to bridge the gap between forestry science and development, particularly in developing countries. Whilst at FAO, he helped organize the FAO/IUFRO, First, Second and Third World Consultations on Forest Tree Breeding (1963, 1969, 1977), the first FAO/IUFRO Symposium on Internationally Dangerous Forest Diseases and Insects (1964) and the FAO/IUFRO Symposium on Man-Made Forests in 1967. The 1963 and 1967 Symposia, among others, were ground-breaking at that time.
After his retirement, from 1983 to 1991, Oscar conceived the idea of, and served as the first Coordinator for IUFRO's Special Programme for Developing Countries (SPDC). A number of national and sub-national projects of forest tree seed research and forest tree improvement/breeding conceived and formulated during SPDC research planning workshops for Africa, were subsequently executed by FAO and some donors. After 1991, Oscar continued to serve the SPDC and IUFRO on a voluntary basis, both in Vienna and Rome. In recognition of his contributions Oscar was awarded the IUFRO Distinguished Service Award in 1992 and IUFRO's highest award, Honorary Membership, in 1995 for outstanding services.
Oscar was a great supporter of the ideals and work of FAO, and felt indebted to them for his career opportunities. During the 23 years of his retirement he volunteered his services without compensation, in his own words, as his way of repaying FAO, serving developing member countries and retaining his sense of purpose in an active way. He put his extensive experience and knowledge at the disposal of the Forest Resources Division, regularly contributing to their work, particularly that of the Forest Resources Development Service and the International Poplar Commission. Oscar, in his humble and gentle manner, worked tirelessly to help Forestry Library staff ascertain the technical merit of documents and their storage. The library had been established through the foresight of Oscar and colleagues, initially as a reference library for forest management and afforestation in the Forest Management Branch. In the 1980s the collection became the Forestry Branch Library. As the documents in the library expanded and the space for the Forestry Library contracted, Oscar found throwing out older documents a terribly painful process. He normally found a way to have them stored in archives for retrieval when needed ¿ and inevitably they were needed.
Oscar was a friend and father-figure to many, having a great influence on the careers of many, including foresters, forest researchers, even leaders in forestry. He loved people and he tried hard to bring them together - people from all over the world. He was deeply satisfied in transferring knowledge and technology to younger generations and to those in developing countries. He believed in team work and instilled this attitude in those that worked with him, at FAO and beyond. He was available to all, young and old - from high positions or no positions. He was also a deeply compassionate man who stood by his colleagues and friends in times of need. Oscar also loved plants, books and literature. His office in the Forest Management Branch used to be so full of plants and books that there was hardly a place to work. The gardens around his house are filled with tall exotic trees that he planted decades ago. He also had a fantastic memory, being able to recall passages written years prior, and able to recall in detail, people, events and issues. Colleagues and friends remember Oscar as the heart of the FAO Forestry Department - that steady, smart, and balanced guy, in focus, yet always ready to be warm, fair, and helpful. Oscar always retained a strong sense of humour and mischief. Knowing all the rules and protocols of FAO and the Italian bureaucracy, he knew ways of circumventing them when necessary. He lived an exceptionally productive life, was a special person, and made an enormous contribution to forestry around the world. We are all fortunate that he lived a long, full life.
It was only weeks prior to his passing that Oscar advised the Forestry Library, the Forest Resources Development Service and the International Poplar Commission that his deteriorating health did not allow him to continue his voluntary work at FAO each week. He was devastated. He had been a member of our FAO forestry team for as long as any of us could remember. His dedication to duty, his unerring focus, his determination to continue his voluntary work in the face of fading health, his institutional memory and his technical knowledge were an inspiration to us all. Recently he reminded the present generation of foresters to be proud of their work and the work of their predecessors. The immense legacy of work ethics, principles and standards that Oscar leaves for his FAO friends and colleagues and the wider forestry fraternity will be difficult to live up to.
No one in history was more associated with FAO Forestry than Oscar. It was sadly fitting that on the very day of his funeral, FAO celebrated its 60th Anniversary. Oscar Fugalli worked with, or in association with FAO for 55 years as a leader, manager, friend, mentor and volunteer - to the very end.