James Hyde's interest in insects will benefit scientists for decades to come.
The estate of James and Marilyn Oliver Hyde, long-time Kennewick residents, has made the largest one-time contribution ever designated for Washington State University insect education and research.
It includes not only 600 specimens from James Hyde's insect collection, but also $1.4 million to support students in the WSU Department of Entomology.
The WSU Entomology Department plans an event to recognize their generosity at 4:30-6 p.m. July 17 at the Reach museum.
The insect collection has been added to the 3 million specimens of the WSU M.T. James Entomological Collection.
The financial donation will be used to create a fellowship program for entomology students, as well as a speaking series that will invite experts to campus to share advances in entomology research.
James Hyde, who died last year at the age of 89, earned an entomology degree from what was then-called Washington State College in 1951, but pursued a career in nuclear engineering at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
He returned to his love of insects after retirement. As a WSU master gardener, he visited schools and met with WSU faculty to share insect specimens and discuss science and discoveries.
Marilyn Oliver Hyde, a 4-H equestrian program leader and longtime employee of the Washington State Horse Racing Committee, was named Kennewick Woman of the Year in 2000. She was a master gardener, Kiwanis member and chairwoman of the Kennewick Parks and Recreation Commission, influencing development of the city's parks.
She died in 2016.
"Through their estate gift, James and Marilyn are ensuring the partnership they began with WSU so many years ago will continue to make a transformational difference for our students and through research with real implications for all of us, including food production, human and animal health and the environment," said WSU President Kirk Schulz.
To be a farmer, a forester or even a climate scientist, it can help to know a thing or two about insects, like what they eat, where they thrive, which ones pollinate and which ones spread disease.
“I would argue that entomology is one of the most basic sciences that we need to understand,” said Rich Zack, a longtime entomology professor and associate dean at Washington State University. “Insects are certainly the greatest competitors of humans for resources that humans want. In general, we think of insects as destroying about a third of what we grow, everything from cotton to apples to you-name-it to forests.”
The M.T. James Engomological Collection that will house James Hyde's insect specimens dates back to the founding of the university, said Zack, the professor who has overseen the collection since he was a doctoral student in the early ’80s.
“The collection itself goes back literally to the founding of the university,” said Zack.
“We have specimens, and there are references to an insect collection in some of the early university literature,” he said. “It was probably a couple boxes of insects that they used to teach students about agricultural pests and good insects and stuff like that.”
The collection is still used as a teaching tool, but it’s also a library of sorts for bug experts who want to know about specific insect populations at specific times.
“Our strongest holdings are in Pacific Northwest insects” – mostly flies, moths and aquatic species – “so people around the world that are doing insect studies will rely on us for insects from our area,” Zack said.