UF/IFAS receives $5 million donation to boost entomology and nematology

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Most people wouldn’t be inclined to show a passion for insects, but in a state that is home to several major seaports and provides a year-round climate where, on the average, a new species of insect is introduced each month, one Floridian in particular is very interested.

Longtime Florida resident Charles Steinmetz has made a career out of the study and management of insects and now wants to make sure the future of pest management research and education continues at the University of Florida.

UF officials announced today that Steinmetz and his wife, Lynn, have committed $5 million to create five new permanent endowments, including three professorships, an entrepreneurship fellowship fund, a research fund and additional support for an existing student scholarship fund. The support is directed to UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Entomology and Nematology.

Entomology and nematology are the study of insects and worms. UF has had a program in place in this area of study since 1915, according to John Capinera, professor and chairman of UF’s entomology and nematology department.

“Florida is at the epicenter of the influx of insects to the continental U.S.,” Capinera says. “These invading pests can prove to be very disruptive to natural and managed ecosystems, including human and animal health and welfare. And our native insects also thrive in our benign climate, so we have a disproportionately high frequency of problems with insects in Florida.”

The professorships to be established with the Steinmetzes’ gift will address these ongoing and growing issues of pest management, including new invaders and the need to apply emerging technology to solve complex problems.

“Pest management is a highly technical field,” Charles Steinmetz says. “And UF is in an ideal position to expand on the technology needed to help the industry provide better results. UF researchers are also focused on reducing the negative impact and exposure of pest management methods on the environment, which is very important to me.”

Steinmetz received a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and life sciences from UF in 1961. He began a career with Orkin Exterminating Co. as a district branch manager. In 1977, Steinmetz bought Middleton Pest Control and later sold it to Sunair Service Corp. He founded All America Termite and Pest Control Inc. in 1982, and sold it to Sears Roebuck and Co. in 1997. Steinmetz received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from UF in 1999.

The Steinmetzes, who live in Winter Park, Fla., have a long history of financial support to UF. They previously established an endowed scholarship fund for entomology graduate students. They are also involved in supporting the visual and performing arts in the Orlando area. Charles Steinmetz serves on the board of directors of both the Orlando Science Center and the University of Florida Foundation, Inc.

“Chuck Steinmetz is a true champion in the field of pest management,” says Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “His career, and now his philanthropy, will have a permanent and positive effect on an industry that impacts the entire nation.”

In recognition of the couple’s gift, the current building housing the UF Department of Entomology and Nematology on the Gainesville campus will be named Charles Steinmetz Hall, pending approval by the UF Board of Trustees at its March meeting.

The gifts from the Steinmetzes to endow the three professorships also results in additional funds for UF’s entomology and nematology department as part of a UF initiative launched this past fall titled “Faculty Now.” The incentive program provides extra funding equaling 4 percent of a gift or commitment to endow faculty positions at UF. The funds are made available immediately and can be used in a variety of ways for faculty support.

Contacts

Writer: Chris Brazda, 352-392-1633, cbrazda@uff.ufl.edu

Source:  John Capinera, 352-273-3905, capinera@ufl.edu