[Viewpoint] Mallis Memories

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June 28, 2011

You know you’re getting up in years when you begin writing retrospective columns about the "good old days." That’s because memories — both positive and negative — can be somewhat selective when viewed through the prism of time. But, without a doubt, some of my fondest work memories are those associated with the publication of the Handbook of Pest Control by Arnold Mallis. In the 30+ years I’ve been employed by GIE Media, I’ve had the privilege of working on five editions of this essential reference book. In all, I’ve read the Handbook of Pest Control — from front to back — 15 times, which could explain why I wear bifocals! But each time I complete the final chapter of this 1,400-page book, I marvel at what Arnold Mallis accomplished during his "spare time" after putting in a full day at his 9-to-5 job.

What possibly could motivate a man to take on such a daunting task as authoring the industry’s most comprehensive reference book? When confronted with such a question, one word immediately comes to mind — passion. Writing the Handbook of Pest Control was an enormous undertaking, requiring years of painstaking research and hours away from his family, but it didn’t seem like work to a man so fascinated by the world of insects. It’s a passion shared by Stoy Hedges, editorial director of the past three editions of the book, as well as Keith Story, editorial director of the inaugural edition of the Handbook of Pest Control, published by GIE Media in 1982. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the foresight of Richard Foster, CEO of GIE Media. It was Foster’s idea, in the early days of our company, to purchase the copyrights to the Handbook of Pest Control from McNair-Dorland Company shortly after the New York-based publisher announced it would cease producing the book. Understanding the essential role the Handbook of Pest Control played in educating generations of PMPs, Foster called Mallis — who was retired at the time and not up to editing a sixth edition of his monumental work — and proposed that industry consultant Keith Story serve as editorial director.

Despite some initial trepidation, Arnold agreed to move ahead with the project and 18 months later, Foster met Mallis at the airport in Grand Rapids, Mich. — where the book’s printer was headquartered — and Arnold signed 500 copies of his living legacy. Twenty-nine years later, in the preface to the soon-to-be-published 10th Edition of the book, Foster still recalls that day fondly: "The next morning we sat in a production room at the printing plant as a forklift brought two pallets of the 6th Edition to us for Arnold’s signature. I handed him the first copy and he held it like a treasure, admiring its binding, its paper quality and its color section...and he looked squarely at me and said, ‘This is the quality I always wanted for my book.’ And for the next several hours, I handed him one copy at a time for his signature, each with as much care as the first, a task of pure pleasure for the 500 customers that provided the seed money required for the printer," Foster says. "Arnold flew home that night and I drove back home to Cleveland, filled with a very special experience and a lasting gift."

That "gift" was the memory of a job well done, the creation of a bond between two men who shared a lifelong passion for their work — one entomology and the other publishing. In the four subsequent editions of the book that have been published since Arnold’s passing in 1984, we’ve tried to honor the legacy of Arnold Mallis by producing the highest quality publication possible, working to improve and enhance each subsequent edition of this must-have book.

And the 10th Edition, which will be published in time for NPMA PestWorld in October, is no exception. The most recent edition reflects the "passion" of Editorial Director Stoy Hedges and the 27 editors who have contributed their time and talents — not to mention their considerable technical expertise — to this ambitious project. This incredibly diverse list of industry professionals, highlighted in the flier accompanying this month’s issue of PCT, reads like a "Who’s Who" of the pest management industry, individuals who — like Arnold Mallis — have dedicated their lives to the field of entomology. For their contributions, I am indebted, as I am to Arnold Mallis, Keith Story, Stoy Hedges, Richard Foster and others who have made the 10th Edition of the Handbook of Pest Control possible. Thanks for the memories!


The author is publisher of PCT magazine.