UF/CALS endowment to Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory honors Beidlers

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Nicknamed the “Dean of Florida Mosquito Control,” E.J. “John” Beidler built a distinguished career in entomology that spanned decades. So, for his 90th birthday in January, his children decided to honor their parents with a scholarship endowment to benefit University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) students.

The John and Iris Beidler Scholarship will help support CALS undergraduate and graduate students majoring in entomology and nematology, with preference for graduate students working at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Lab (FMEL) in Vero Beach, Florida. Jorge Rey, director of FMEL, said the scholarship will support the goal of increasing the number of graduate students conducting research at the facility.

From field biology of mosquitoes to mosquito genetics, disease transmission and ecology, students are involved in every project at the lab.

“Being away from Gainesville, it’s a little more difficult for our graduate students to find housing, and a lot of them end up cobbling together their budget to make ends meet,” Rey said. “This scholarship will defray the cost of books, housing and tuition for these students.”

John Beidler earned a bachelor’s degree in entomology and nematology from CALS in 1950. He became director of the Indian River Mosquito Control District (IRMDC) in Vero Beach in 1955. During his 48 years at IRMDC, Beidler worked closely with the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Lab and its scientists, mentoring and providing support wherever he could.

“I think the political support that he has garnered through professional mosquito control organizations has been critical to the lab’s efforts,” Rey said. “Whenever this center has needed support for legislation, budgets or anything else, John has always come through.”

John Beidler has served as an adviser to the leadership of FMEL since its beginnings 60 years ago. He facilitated research and other collaborations between IRMDC and FMEL. Over the years, employees from IRMDC gave seminars to FMEL students and have assisted with short field courses.

“His whole career was spent working around UF/IFAS scientists,” said Melissa Beidler, one of John Beidler’s daughters. “My sisters, brother and I thought this would be a great way to honor him and promote the study of entomology in Florida, which is so important to the Florida economy.”

Melissa Beidler remembers her sister Barbara glued to a microscope on their shared bedroom desk, identifying mosquito species with tiny tweezers to help their father with a project at FMEL. The five siblings, Barbara, Melissa, Susan, Amy and Grant, enjoyed occasional visits to FMEL with their father, and several had mosquito-related summer jobs growing up. Amy later graduated from UF as an entomology and nematology major.

“Dad is a natural teacher,” said Melissa Beidler. “He has so much information about entomology and subjects surrounding the field. You can’t help but learn so many things from him. And our mom believed deeply in the power of education, continuing to tutor elementary-level kids long after she retired from teaching special needs students. They both value learning and are promoters of continuous education.”

In retirement, John Beidler continues to attend all the mosquito industry conferences and meetings, visits FMEL for seminars and events, and often participates in personnel interviews. Either directly or indirectly, his influence continues to be felt in the industry.

“I am so honored that my children thought of this way to recognize their mother and me,” said John Beidler in reflection on the scholarship endowment. “It makes me feel so good to know that this will be a lasting contribution to students for years to come.”

“If you’re looking to honor someone, we think endowing a scholarship is a great way to do so,” Melissa Beidler said. “We hope that students who could use a little bit of financial assistance to continue their education can take advantage of this scholarship. We want them to feel that they have the support of the community and our family.”

If you would like to create a scholarship endowment in honor of a loved one, or if you would like to further support the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, contact Katherine Davies, associate director of development and external affairs at 352-294-7869 or kedavies@ufl.edu.

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The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.

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