GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Triple Gator George Pickhardt has built one of the largest pest control businesses in the Southeastern United States and remains heavily involved in volunteer activities both in service to the University of Florida and his local community. On May 4, Pickhardt was presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award by UF at the spring student recognition ceremony for the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).
The award is one of the highest honors bestowed upon a graduate of the university and recognizes recipients who have excelled in their chosen field or have performed outstanding service for the university.
“As a result of Mr. Pickhardt’s dedication and interaction with the University of Florida, his business has grown, his community has prospered and been beautified, the pest service industry in Florida has developed a high degree of professionalism and students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have benefited,” said Philip Koehler, a professor in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department. “He has had and continues to have profound impact on the lives of many, both at the University of Florida and in his community.”
Pickhardt earned his bachelor’s degree in entomology in 1969, subsequently earning his master’s degree in 1971 with a focus on ornamental horticulture. He joined the family business, Arrow Environmental Services, and took over the leadership from his father in 1988. Later, Pickhardt earned a Master of Business Administration from UF in 2005.
After the economic recession in 2008, Pickhardt restructured his company business model and formed Environmental Pest Service. The company began acquiring other pest and lawn businesses. Today, there are 85 companies and more than 500 employees which are part of EPS. In 2016 and 2017, EPS was recognized as a Gator100 company, a select group of the 100 fastest-growing, Gator-owned or Gator-led businesses in the world.
Pickhardt understands communities need stable financial and health resources to grow and prosper. He has been heavily involved in these sectors of the Southwest Florida area as founding director and former chairman of the Florida Shores Bank-Southwest, current chairman for Premier Community Bank in Manatee and Sarasota counties, and immediate past chairman for Venice Regional Medical Center.
Pickhardt and his wife Jean invest their time and talent into other local boards. These include the YMCA, United Cerebral Palsy of Southwest Florida, Girl Scouts and Manasota Chapter of the Florida Nurseryman and Growers Association, among many others.
“George Pickhardt is a true servant leader, one who strives in all his affiliations to make the world a better place,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “I am proud to call him a graduate of the college, a trusted adviser, friend and now a Distinguished Alumnus of UF.”
As the first president of the CALS Alumni and Friends board in 1996, Pickhardt drove strategic change and helped transform the board to better serve the rapidly changing alumni base due to a nearly doubled enrollment increase in the college. He received the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association Volunteer Service Award in 2000 for these efforts. He has remained a champion for bringing students and industry stakeholders together to foster student professional development opportunities.
Leadership of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences selected Pickhardt to be a delegate for the Council of Agriculture Research Extension and Teaching (CARET) more than a decade ago. In this role, Pickhardt advocated for securing resources to carry out the land-grant mission of public universities. Currently, he is a member of the UF/IFAS Regional Advisory Council and is an alumnus of the 1992-1994 charter class of the UF/IFAS Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“George has supported the University of Florida in every way an alumnus could be asked – as a donor, a volunteer, a legislative advocate, a student recruiter and a life-long learner,” said Emily Sperling, former director of student recruitment and alumni affairs for CALS from 2000-2006. “His innovative, strategic and often relentless pursuit of initiatives with lasting impact on the university is remarkable.”