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Family is at the heart of an 85-year tradition of Purdue pest management education and networking

While pest control dates to nearly the beginning of agriculture, in the early decades of the 1900s pesticides were still only sometimes effective and more often hazardous.

“In Grandfather’s time, operators mixed their own concoctions,” says Robert (Bob) Dold, whose family business, Chicago-based Rose Pest Solutions, dates to 1860, making it the oldest pest management firm in the country.

His grandfather, the late C. Norman Dold, was national general manager of the company and instrumental in launching Purdue’s first Pest Management Conference in January 1937.

His participation marked the start of the Dold family’s eight-decade commitment to the Purdue conference and to advancing their industry. His son and daughter-in-law, Robert and Judy Dold and their son Bob have maintained the family’s tradition of support.

"The long-standing service of the Dold family to the pest management industry and engagement with the Purdue Pest Management Conference is truly remarkable,” says Cate Hill, interim department head and professor of entomology.

In a tight-knit and rapidly evolving industry, meeting in person was especially important in the pre-digital years, Judy Dold points out. Relationships among industry leaders had led to establishment of the National Association of Exterminators and Fumigators in 1933. C. Norman Dold was its third president, in 1935-1936.

C. Norman Dold (right) at the 25th Pest Control Operators Conference. C. Norman Dold (right) at the 25th Pest Control Operators Conference.
Roberty Dold, Sr., receives honor Gary Bennett, former head of the Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management, honors Robert Dold Sr., for 50 years of attendance at the Purdue Pest Management Conference.
A 1936 address by J.J. Davis, head of the Department of Entomology at Purdue, to the association’s convention in Cleveland laid the groundwork for the university’s first conference. Planners expected 10 to 15 participants the following January; 78 registrants came from 14 states. Attendance would grow to more than 1,200 over the years.

By the time Robert Dold served as the organization’s president in 1982-1983, and Judy Dold followed in 2001-2002, its name had been changed to the National Pest Management Association. Today the NPMA’s 5,000 members continue to support the pest management industry's commitment to protect public health, food and property.

The Purdue conference has been integral to that effort. It was built around entomology, rather than business practices, and Davis was “an icon in the industry,” Bob Dold says. “Purdue became the nexus because of the students the department produced.”

Many attendees depended on the conference to stay current in their field. “This was their time to learn about new techniques and new materials and to talk to scientists,” Robert Dold says. “This is what made them professionals. Many of them did not attend college, and this was a chance for them to go to Purdue University.”

“The conference was set up in an age of limited communication for the small operators to learn the newest and the best,” Judy Dold adds. “The one-man operator who might be the only technician while his wife did the books and answered the phone was hungry for information. At the conference, he could rub elbows with industry leaders he’d heard about.”

The meeting helped pave the way for a professional pest management industry, the Dold family agrees. It promoted continuing education, standardized operating practices and facilitated mentoring of newcomers to the industry.

As other universities launched their own conferences based on the Purdue model, operators could gain this information closer to home, or later, in online classes. But for many years, Purdue was the only such gathering, and it remains highly regarded as an important hub of information.

It has continued to grow and evolve, as have conferences, workshops and other educational meetings nationally and worldwide. The Purdue event offers expertise that helps the attendees do their jobs better. It also has become a vehicle for pest management professionals and suppliers to provide thousands of dollars in scholarship support that encourages entomology students to enter the industry.

“Others copied the Purdue model because of their vision,” says Barry Pittendrigh, Osmun Endowed Chair in Urban Entomology and director of the Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management. “By engaging industry leaders like the Dolds, the conference remains well-placed to continue ongoing leadership in the field and to work with Purdue as it continues to preparing current and future professionals in this industry.”

Norman Dold attended the conference from 1937 until his death in 1965, His son Robert has logged 55 years and is the meeting’s longest attending member. “Mom and I pale by comparison, but we have a pretty good string,” Bob Dold says.

Dold family Continuing the tradition: Judy and Robert Dold with their son, Robert Dold Jr.

The meeting helped pave the way for a professional pest management industry, the Dold family agrees. It promoted continuing education, standardized operating practices and facilitated mentoring of newcomers to the industry.

As other universities launched their own conferences based on the Purdue model, operators could gain this information closer to home, or later, in online classes. But for many years, Purdue was the only such gathering, and it remains highly regarded as an important hub of information.

It has continued to grow and evolve, as have conferences, workshops and other educational meetings nationally and worldwide. The Purdue event offers expertise that helps the attendees do their jobs better. It also has become a vehicle for pest management professionals and suppliers to provide thousands of dollars in scholarship support that encourages entomology students to enter the industry.

“Others copied the Purdue model because of their vision,” says Barry Pittendrigh, Osmun Endowed Chair in Urban Entomology and director of the Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management. “By engaging industry leaders like the Dolds, the conference remains well-placed to continue ongoing leadership in the field and to work with Purdue as it continues to preparing current and future professionals in this industry.”

Norman Dold attended the conference from 1937 until his death in 1965, His son Robert has logged 55 years and is the meeting’s longest attending member. “Mom and I pale by comparison, but we have a pretty good string,” Bob Dold says.

Service is a Dold family tradition: Bob Dold is a former two-time U.S. representative from Illinois’s 10th congressional district. “But the story’s not so much about the family’s commitment to the conference,” he says. “It’s really about the industry’s commitment, and we’re a part of the industry, so we reflect that.”

In contrast to his grandfather’s era, “today we’re all using the same materials and following the same labels,” he says. “We are highly educated professionals protecting public health and the food supply. We’re very proud of our industry.”

 “Purdue entomology is keen to continue our engagement with industry leaders, such as the Dold family, to serve an ever-changing industry and help train those students and scientists that will lead the industry of tomorrow in the delivery of pest management solutions for society,” Hill says.

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