Rick Cartwright grew up on a farm in Stone County, where he was a member of 4-H. He went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of California at Davis.

Cartwright joined the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture in 1992, earning international recognition as a rice pathologist and serving in various leadership posts. He also served as interim head of the plant pathology department, and more recently has been associate director-Agriculture and Natural Resources before being named interim director of extension in 2016 and senior associate vice president for agriculture-extension for the UA Division of Agriculture in 2017. He retired June 30, 2020.

He also spent six years (1978-84) as assistant vice president of the Farm Supply Division for Southern Farmers Association before moving to California to pursue graduate work.