By Larry Dendy
University of Georgia
A University of Georgia department has been given more than half a million dollars to honor the late UGA entomologist Herbert H. Ross and his wife Jean.
Ross's son and daughter-in-law, Charles A. and June R.P. Ross, donated $505,000. Their gift is the largest ever received by the entomology department of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
The gift will be used to establish the Herbert H. and Jean A. Ross Memorial Endowment to further the study of insect systematics.
Insuring the future of UGA systematics
Herbert Ross was on the UGA entomology faculty from 1969 until his retirement in 1975. He was an expert in insect systematics, the science of classifying species of insects and understanding their natural relationships.
Ross was a world authority on the order Trichoptera, which includes the caddis flies. He wrote six books, seven book chapters and more than 200 other scientific publications.
He came to UGA from the Illinois Natural History Survey and the University of Illinois, where he worked for 42 years. He died in 1978 in Athens.
"While he was here, Dr. Ross was probably the leading figure in the world in insect systematics," said Ray Noblet, head of the entomology department. "More than a million species have been identified and named, but authorities estimate there are 3 million to 30 million yet to be named. He was a pioneer in this field.
"Insects are fascinating and valuable components of almost all ecosystems," Noblet said. "But they can also do great damage to plants and transmit diseases in humans. Systematics is basic to all our work in entomology. You have to know which species you're dealing with, and Dr. Ross's work was very important."
Ross family honors father, strengthens UGA research
Charles and June Ross live in Bellingham, Wash., the home of Western Washington University. Charles was a faculty member in geology and paleobiology at WWU and later worked in oil exploration. June, a biologist and former chair of the WWU biology department, did postdoctoral work at UGA in the late 1960s, working with UGA professor Wyatt Anderson.
Noblet said the couple wanted to create the endowment to honor Herbert Ross and to strengthen the entomology department's expertise in systematics, an area of emphasis for the department since it was started in 1955 as part of the UGA College of Arts and Sciences. It was transferred to the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 1996.
When established, the endowment can be used for several purposes, including support for graduate assistants, salaries, underwriting course development, buying lab equipment or providing travel expenses.
Besides his expertise in systematics, Herbert Ross was well known for his work in evolutionary theory, community ecology and biogeography.
He was president of the Entomological Society of America, the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Society of Systematic Zoology. A review panelist for the National Science Foundation, he was a member of 16 scientific societies.
CAES interim dean and director Josef Broder said the college is "greatly indebted to the vision and generosity of the Ross family. Through this endowment the entomology department can build upon the many scholarly contributions of Dr. Ross."
The endowment is the second memorial for Ross in the entomology department. The Herbert Ross Memorial Fund, established in 1982 with gifts from Charles and June Ross and other family members, now totals about $85,000. The fund provides graduate assistantships and other financial assistance for graduate students.
(Larry Dendy is assistant to the associate vice president for public affairs of the University of Georgia.)