College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
AGNR Research

Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology

A Memorial to Governor Harry Roe Hughes:

"Together, we will"

Governor Harry Roe Hughes was remarkable in the way he served Maryland and in his vision for a cleaner Chesapeake Bay, but he was also equally remarkable as a person outside of the political sphere. He was a man of humility, honor, integrity, and kindness who led through consensus building.

“Governor Hughes was a cornerstone for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup initiative. Most importantly, for me, he was the kindest man I think I ever knew, and his attitude was so positive all the time,” said Dr. Russ Brinsfield, the first director of the Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology. The Center was later renamed to the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology. “He was a consensus builder — not divisive at all, and he always reached across the aisle. His leadership style is the reason we’re as far along as we are with the Bay cleanup.”

He popularized the connection of land use with water quality — something that drives Bay restoration to this day — and helped solidify in the minds of the public and the state legislature the importance of restoring the largest estuary in North America. It was Governor Hughes who in 1983 pushed for the first regional agreement between states that surround the Chesapeake Bay. His administration was the first to push legislation such as the Critical Areas Act, and his administration that established the Chesapeake Bay Trust.

"As Governor, he appointed people to his Cabinet who were predisposed to his nature of working collaboratively. His appointees represented different sectors, but worked together to develop programs that were mutually beneficial to various groups as well as the Bay. The Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology was a natural outgrowth of this consensus-based approach,” said Verna Harrison, Hughes Center Board Member and friend of the governor who worked with him under his tenure in state office.

“Highly intelligent, yet humble, Governor Hughes truly embodied the concept of ‘public service.’ Starting my career during the Mandel Administration, the transition to the Hughes style of leadership kept young people like myself inspired to work in government jobs,” Harrison said.

Governor Hughes’ legacy of environmental stewardship did not end after his departure from office. In 1999, Governor Hughes and other visionaries started the development of a Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology, founded on the notion that people can develop agriculture both as a profitable industry in Maryland and one that conserves and renews Maryland’s natural resources. Renamed in honor of the governor in 2006, the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology continues the Governor’s legacy today of bringing diverse stakeholders together to discuss difficult issues and find solutions based on science.

“Governor Hughes, in his mild-mannered way, encouraged action,” said Fran Flanigan, Hughes Center Board Member and former director of Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. “I remember a meeting in his office, after he had received the report from the Chesapeake Bay Program, when he said to his assembled staff, ‘This report cannot sit on a shelf. We must act.’ I think that was his philosophy throughout his public career.”

Challenges come and go. But it is how these challenges are met and solved that is written in the history books.

“Together, we will,” Governor Hughes once said at a 2000 press conference on the Agro-Ecology Center’s creation. In honor of the Governor, let us meet future challenges facing the state and the Bay in his style — with collaboration, honor, and integrity in search of the best solutions for all involved.


The Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) corporation affiliated with the University of Maryland College Park and the University System of Maryland.  Founded in 1999, the Center brings together diverse interests from the agricultural, forestry, and environmental communities for the purpose of retaining Maryland's working landscapes and the industries they support while protecting and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. 

Mission Statement of the Center:

Provide leadership to promote environmentally sound and economically viable agriculture and forestry as Maryland's preferred land use through research, outreach and collaboration.

View our 2017-18 Annual Report here


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