Date Set for Thomas and Nina Leigh Distinguished Alumni Award Seminar

Michael Hoffmann to Deliver Seminar on Oct. 14 in Putah Creek Lodge

Michael Hoffmann
Michael Hoffmann

The date is set for the recently postponed Thomas and Nina Leigh Distinguished Alumni Award Seminar. Noted entomologist and climate change author Michael Hoffmann, emeritus professor of Cornell University, will deliver the seminar on Monday, Oct. 14 in the Putah Creek Lodge.

The event, to include a social, lecture and dinner, begins at 4 p.m. The lodge is located at 685 Putah Creek Lodge Drive.

The Leigh seminar, hosted by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, annually honors distinguished alumni. Hoffmann was selected the 2020 recipient, but the COVID pandemic intervened. This is first Leigh seminar since the beginning of COVID pandemic.

Hoffmann, the lead author of the book, Our Changing Menu: Climate Change and the Foods We Love and Need (Cornell Press 2021), will speak on "Our Changing Menu: Using the Power of Food to Confront Climate Change." 

"Food is essential for life, it is emotive, it is personal, and it is deeply imbedded in our cultures and family histories," he says in his abstract. "Let’s face it, we love it. However, not enough people know that climate change is changing the flavors, aromas, nutritional quality, and prices of the foods we love and need. Food is the ideal messenger for the climate change story and one that can make climate change relevant to everyone — we all eat. Regardless of political affiliation most people are interested in learning more about climate change impacts on their food — an audience awaits. We also talk a lot about food but far less about climate change yet talking about climate change is the first step in confronting it. It is time to meld these conversations. Imagine consumers, producers, chefs, food media, restaurateurs, retailers, and many more tapping the power of food to confront climate change and keeping our favorites on the menu. And coincidentally, keeping the planet livable."

Book cover, "Our Changing Menu"
Michael Hoffmann is the lead author of "Our Changing Menu"

Hoffmann says he is dedicating his life to "confronting the grand challenge of climate change by helping people understand and appreciate what is happening through the foods we all love and need. He has published climate-change articles in the popular press, including The Hill, Fortune, Medium, and USA Today.  He also delivered a TEDX Talk, titled Climate Change: It’s Time to Raise Our Voices; teaches an online eCornell course, Climate Change Leadership; and has presented more than 150 climate-change talks.  

"I  will tell the climate change story until I no longer can," he says. 

A native of Wisconsin, Hoffmann grew up on "a one-cow dairy farm" and served as a sergeant in the U. S. Marines during the Vietnam War. He received his bachelor's degree in 1975 from the University of Wisconsin, master's degree in 1978 from the University of Arizona, and his doctorate in 1990 from UC Davis, where he studied with Professor Ted Wilson and later Frank Zalom, now UC Davis distinguished professor emeritus.

Hoffmann joined the Cornell faculty in 1990 and held multiple leadership roles in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, including executive director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions (2015-2020). He transitioned to emeritus in January 2020 after a 30-year career at Cornell.

The Leigh seminar memorializes cotton entomologist Thomas Frances Leigh (1923-1993), an international authority on the biology, ecology and management of arthropod pests affecting cotton production. During his 37-year UC Davis career, Leigh was based at the Shafter Research and Extension Center, also known as the U.S. Cotton Research Station. When his wife, Nina, passed in 2002, the name of the alumni seminar changed to the Thomas and Nina Distinguished Alumni Award Seminar.

For reservations to the Leigh event, contact Chelsea Hogan at

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