WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — One of highlights of the opening ceremonies at this year’s annual Purdue Pest Management Conference was the recognition of Dr. Gary Bennett for having led the conference the last 50 years.
As professor and director of the Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management at Purdue University, Bennett has been the longtime organizer of the conference, which is one of the premier educational events in the pest control industry.
In addition to leading the conference, Bennett has taught numerous courses in urban entomology and led research programs on the biology, behavior and management of bed bugs, German cockroaches, ants, rodents, termites and more.
Industry consultant Dr. Bobby Corrigan, a Purdue graduate, reviewed many of Bennett’s contributions, including his research into the science behind pest management. “If we look at the breadth of knowledge and the reach he has had over the years, we realize that many of the things you are doing as pest management professionals, many of the products you are using, and the technology you are using, can be traced back to Gary Bennett.”
Bennett also has trained and mentored subsequent generations of entomologists who have carried his research forward, including 44 graduate students.
A native of Lake Charles, La., Bennett’s family owned and operated a pest control business and he worked summers for the family company. One of his career highlights was the discovery of Formosan termites in and around the Lake Charles port (the first identified infestation of this species in the U.S.), and being visited by Purdue’s Dr. John Osmun who came to collect some of this new invasive species.
Bennett earned two degrees from LSU (where he was involved in surveying New Orleans for Formosan termites, which were found to be widely scattered along the Mississippi River port area). He then moved with his wife, Milta, to Raleigh, N.C., to study urban entomology at North Carolina State with Drs. Charles Wright and Harry Moore (a Purdue graduate). He received his PhD in 1970 and moved to Purdue University, where he and Milta started their family (which includes daughter Nikki and son Chris) and where he joined the faculty at Purdue.
In reflecting on his time leading the Purdue Pest Management Conference, Bennett recalled that his first day on the job after accepting the Purdue position in 1970 was attending the Purdue conference as an observer. “I remember thinking this was a pretty darn good meeting, and I am happy to be here, and happy to be a part of the team that will put on programs that have, hopefully, been beneficial to you guys."