Dr. Benigno (BEN) Villalón is from Edcouch, Texas, reared on a vegetable farm and graduated from Edcouch-Elsa High School in 1954. Ben served our country in the United States Marine Corps from 1954 to 1958. He worked at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, at Weslaco for two years prior to enrolling at Texas A & M University. Degrees include B.S. in Agronomy '64, M.S. in Vegetable Plant Breeding ’65, and a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology-Virology '69. Before returning to Weslaco, Ben was hired as a tomato and strawberry pathologist-breeder at the University of Florida Agricultural Research Center at Homestead, FLA, 1969-1970. From 1971 to 1996, he was senior resident research scientist at the Texas Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Weslaco. As Professor of Plant Pathology, Breeding and Virology, at Weslaco, Dr. Villalón was Project Leader for vegetable and agronomic crops virus disease research. Research emphasis was placed on the development of new multiple virus and insect resistant hot and sweet pepper varieties for Texas and other areas. He was also involved in resistance research on viruses and other diseases of sugar cane from 1974 to 1994. Plant transformation and regeneration systems for development of disease resistant transgenic pepper and tomato plants were in initiated. Ben retired after 36 years of service at Texas A&M.
His colleagues, because of his breeding research with various types of peppers since 1971, often refer to him as “DR. PEPPER”. He has studied the genetics of peppers (earliness, pungency, disease reaction, tropical adaptability, etc.) and has genetically engineered the degree of "heat", flavor, color, and Vitamin A and C in thousands of different pepper plants. His job resume' includes pages of titles to articles he has published in scientific journals. Dr. Villalón, a major pepper breeder for Texas and the nation, received the “Award of Excellence for Research” from Texas A & M in January 1990. He also received the coveted 'Arthur T. Potts Award' from the Rio Grande Valley Horticultural Society in January 1992. He has also received many accolades from different civic organization. Three Texas governors and the Texas Legislative branch have recognized Dr. Ben’s research. He still goes to the laboratory periodically to assist in the evaluation of improved pepper lines as needed.
Dr. Villalón is married to Rosa Emma Reyna from Rio Hondo, Texas. Mrs. Villalón also retired in 1995 after 20 years with Weslaco ISD as a bilingual master teacher. She is responsible for their five children: Ben-TAMU, Dentist-Periodontist, Sugarland, Texas; Suzanne-Princeton Univ. and Univ. Of Texas, Attorney Adviser-San Antonio, Texas; Deborah Kay-Pre-Med-Biology, Princeton Univ. and TAMU Plant Pathologist-Molecular Biologist-Ph.D.-Baylor College of Medicine, Human Genome Sequencing Project, Houston, Texas, Biology Teacher at Weslaco High School, Molecular Biology Instructor, South Texas College, Weslaco, Texas; Belda R. Villalon-TAMU, Political Science, Regional Director of Patient Access, Parallon/HCA, Denny Kurtis-TAMU and UTSA, Journalism-Mass Communication, Manager Hertz Auto Dealership, San Antonio, Texas.