HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Two of the professors killed in the mass shooting at UA Huntsville were biologists who worked with plants. They grew the department in their long tenure and even though they're gone, what they started to grow lives on, in many ways.
Dr. Leland Cseke is the lone man standing among the trees. He used to be part of a 3-person team in plant molecular biology.
There were Dr. Gopi Podilla and Dr. Maria Ragland-Davis as leads, and him.
Now, its just him.
"I've learned a lot about self and it's a steep learning curve," said Cseke.
"You learn what you're capable of, and what is that?" I asked.
"Time will tell," continued Cseke.
Cseke knew Dr. Podilla for 20 years. Podilla helped Cseke get into grad school. Then, Cseke followed Podilla here to UA Huntsville.
"I knew him so long it was almost like a father to me," added Cseke.
And where Podilla was paternal, Ragland-Davis was like a sensitive sibling. They shared a love of gardening.
"She would always park and have a flower with her and show it to me," said Cseke.
Their devotion to the study of plants drives Cseke to create a memory garden outside the Shelby Center to honor their spirits and keep their legacy alive.
"She gave me a crepe myrtle and I've been saving it in the green house because I want to plant that there. She was also into strawberries and I got a whole bunch of her strawberries. I've been keeping those, so I want to plant it out there," continued Cseke.
While the garden idea outside is just now taking root, Cseke is focused on keeping Podilla and Ragland-Davis' lab projects alive inside.
Gleaning the greenery, stimulating the minds of students, and fertilizing for the future.