Kathy Heinsohn, staff entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), was well down the path of becoming a marine biologist before Gary Bennett did what he had done so many times before — and has done so many times since — namely identify, win over and closely mentor today’s best and brightest so tomorrow is as promising as it can be for the pest management industry.
“Initially, I fought Gary tooth and nail on joining Purdue’s doctoral program in entomology. I can’t tell you how glad I am today that he was so patient and persistent with me,” Heinsohn said.
“Not only has Gary unselfishly shared his extensive knowledge and contacts with me and so many others, but he also has been instrumental in organizing the world-renowned Purdue conference and has co-authored several editions of Truman’s Guide to Pest Management Operations, our industry’s bible,” Heinsohn said.
Pest Control Roots
Gary Bennett’s service to our industry began in 1954, when he started spraying pesticides at age 12 outside of structures as a technician’s assistant at his dad’s Lake Charles, La.-based Bennett Pest Control.
“Those were the good old days when we were using chlorinated hydrocarbons so there weren’t many callbacks,” Bennett chuckles.
It didn’t take Bennett long to work his way inside of structures … and our wonderful community of pest management professionals.
Even before Bennett earned a master’s degree in entomology from Louisiana State University, he broke new ground by conducting toxicology tests and establishing physiological resistance levels for various German cockroach strains.
While earning his Ph.D. in entomology from North Carolina State University, Bennett extended his leading-edge research to include studies of roaches’ behavioral resistances.
Bennett applied for and accepted the position of assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., shortly before graduating from North Carolina State.
“I had never even been to Indiana before I accepted the post,” Bennett adds. “When my lovely bride, Milta, and I got to Purdue, there was snow up to our knees. Milta had only seen snow two or three times in her life, she was seven months pregnant, and I had to leave there and return to North Carolina a few days after Christmas to complete my dissertation.”
Two children and 37 Purdue Pest Management Conferences later, Bennett is still running the show and deflecting credit as coordinator of Purdue’s Urban and Industrial Pest Management Center.
Making the Grade
Bennett’s significant and tireless contributions to the pest management community earned him induction into the Pest Control Hall of Fame Class of 2006. Following is just a small sampling of the straight A’s given Bennett by his industry colleagues:
“Gary is great for Purdue and the industry. He has an uncanny ability to form connections between the two, bringing together people from all backgrounds to recognize and capitalize on synergistic opportunities. Gary’s also a major-league mentor. As an academic advisor, he carefully molds and nurtures his students and places them on career paths that will optimize their and the industry’s potential,” said Jody Green, a Ph.D. student in the Urban Entomology Lab at Purdue University.
“Gary’s enthusiasm and passion for teaching extends across many lands and well into the seas. In 1999, Gary organized Indiana Pest Management Association’s first underway pest control seminar aboard the ship Fantasy. A fifth such seminar, entailing an expedition on the Mexican Riviera on Carnival’s newest vessel, Pride, is scheduled for February 2008,” said Anwar “Sid” Shah, president of Indianapolis-based Arab Termite & Pest Control.
“What impresses me most about Gary is the time and care he devotes to each of the students he takes under his wing. They thrive, and so does our industry, because of his commitment to ‘passing it on,’” said Greg Campbell, entomologist and owner of Hatfield Pest Control in La Porte, Ind.
“I hired Gary at Purdue for many reasons, including the fact that he had grown up in our wonderful business. I knew back then that he was the right man for the job — I just didn’t know how right, but that quickly became evident,” said John Osmun, professor emeritus and former head of Purdue’s entomology department, and fellow Pest Control Hall of Fame inductee (Class of 1997).
“At each of the past 37 Purdue Pest Management Conferences, our industry has received a sneak peak at Gary’s tremendous vision, drive and organization and delegation skills. His contributions go well beyond that, though. Helping others clearly is the central purpose of Gary’s life, and he does this very graciously,” said Norm Ehmann, vice president emeritus for Van Waters and Rogers and fellow Pest Control Hall of Fame inductee (Class of 1999).