Vernard Lewis Selected as 2021 ESA Founders' Memorial Lecturer
Lewis' address will honor Margaret Collins, legendary Black entomologist and civil rights advocate
Vernard Lewis, Ph.D., BCE
Annapolis, MD; May 24, 2021—Vernard Lewis, Ph.D., BCE, emeritus cooperative extension specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, has been selected to deliver the Founders' Memorial Award lecture at Entomology 2021, the Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America (ESA).
The Founders' Memorial Award was established in 1958 to honor the memory of scientists who made outstanding contributions to entomology. Each year at the ESA Annual Meeting, the recipient of the award delivers the Founders' Memorial Lecture, the topic of which is a deceased entomologist.
At Entomology 2021, the subject of Dr. Lewis' lecture will be Margaret Collins, Ph.D. (1922–1996), a legendary Black entomologist and civil rights advocate whose five-decade career earned her the nickname "Termite Lady," for her foundational contributions to scientific understanding of termite desiccation resistance.
When Dr. Collins earned her doctorate in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1950, she was just the third Black woman in the U.S. to do so and the first specializing in entomology. She went on to teach at three different universities, publish 40 papers and books, and curate the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's termite collection, which now bears her name.
During her career, Dr. Collins' support of and engagement in the civil rights movement landed her on an FBI watch list, and she co-authored a book in 1981, titled Science and the Question of Human Equality, based on a symposium she organized two years earlier for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Margaret Collins, Ph.D.
Dr. Collins will be the fourth woman and second Black entomologist to be the subject of the Founders' Memorial lecture in the award's 64-year history.
Dr. Lewis is internationally recognized for his pioneering research on drywood termite biology, detection, and control. During his nearly 40-year career, he has authored and co-authored more than 150 refereed and trade magazine articles and book chapters on termites and household insect pests. Dr. Lewis began his career in 1982 as a staff entomologist with IPM Systems in the San Francisco Bay area, after earning his B.S. in agricultural sciences in 1975 and his M.S. in entomology in 1979, both at UC Berkeley. He later worked in vector control at San Quentin State Prison while also pursuing his Ph.D. in entomology, which he received in 1989, again at UC Berkeley.
Dr. Lewis was then hired as a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley and joined the faculty as an extension specialist in 1991, advising pest management professionals and the public on household pests. At the time of his hire, he was the first Black faculty member at UC Berkeley's Rausser College of Natural Resources. A year before his retirement in 2017, Dr. Lewis was inducted into the National Pest Management Association Hall of Fame, and today he continues to volunteer his time on university and industry committees and public boards dedicated to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion for underrepresented minorities and women in STEM careers.
"Dr. Lewis has charted a remarkable career in both research and extension and is a role model for current and future generations of insect scientists," says ESA President Michelle S. Smith, BCE. "His pioneering spirit echoes that of Dr. Margaret Collins, and her story of determination, curiosity, and perseverance will be a perfect complement to our annual meeting showcasing adaptation and transformation in insect science."
In recommending Dr. Lewis for this recognition, Nan-Yao Su, Ph.D., distinguished professor of entomology at the University of Florida, wrote, "In today's social climate … now is the time to tell the story of Dr. Collins, who dared to pursue her love of science as a Black woman, dared to stand up against gender inequality, and dared to act against social injustice. And there is no one more qualified to tell her story than Dr. Vernard Lewis, who shares with her the passion of entomology and social justice."
Lewis will deliver the Founders' Memorial Lecture, titled "Margaret Collins: Pioneering Scientist and Civil Rights Advocate," at the Entomology 2021 Awards Breakfast, beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, November 2.
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ABOUT: ESA is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has more than 7,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, the Society stands ready as a non-partisan scientific and educational resource for all insect-related topics. For more information, visit www.entsoc.org.
Entomology 2021, the 69th Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, will take place both in person and virtually, October 31–November 3, in Denver, Colorado, with online, on-demand content available beginning in October through the end of January 2022. The hybrid event will continue the ESA Annual Meeting's strong tradition or bringing together more than 3,000 insect scientists every year to share their latest research and communicate the global science of entomology. For more information, visit www.entsoc.org/events/annual-meeting.