An Anecdotal Partial Biography of
Ronald W. Stark
Founders Award Address by Ronald Stark
Rapid City, South Dakota, April 1995
I ran across a bit of Chinese philosophy recently which I felt describes in some manner my life and professional career. This story may or may not be according to true Chinese philosophy as it was from an Erle Stanley Gardner's pre-Perry Mason story.
It is symbolized by an elderly man riding a mule backward. His features convey the impression that he has lived a full, rich life, achieved wisdom and developed character. He is filled with a zest for life and for life's adventures in spite of his age. He has achieved this state by believing that the vicissitudes of life are but events which shape man's character-the development of which is the true purpose of life. Whether one is met with good or bad fortune is relatively unimportant. It is the reaction to good or bad events that matters.
A man who suffers adversity and reacts in the proper way, develops character which, in the end run, is an asset so that he has benefited as much as though the fortune were good. He is not swollen with pride over an achievement, nor is he despondent over a defeat.
Because he believes these things he rides his mule backwards, because it makes no difference where he is going. A destination in life is not important. It is only what he does along the way that counts. Man, journeying along the way which cannot be traveled, must never regard fame or wealth as his goal. Only as their acquisition affects his character are they important. One who learns to be indifferent to wealth and fame has gone far towards becoming superior to failure. Wealth and Poverty, Fame and Obscurity, are but forces by which character is shaped. If they are regarded as destinations, one risks his character and the journey through life is failure.
My progression to the exalted role of Founders' Award Speaker has been dictated, unwittingly I assure you, by this philosophy. I offer these anecdotes of my life and career with the hope that they will afford something of use to some of you.
I was raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada during a time when teachers were authoritarians. Were a student unruly, he was punished, physically, if merited in the opinion of the teacher or the ultimate authority, the principal. I received many hand strappings with a hard leather strap for various infractions during my elementary and junior high years. By high school I had gotten smart. Such punishments were naturally feared but seldom resented because it was the way.
If you played hooky your parents were advised. In chronic cases they were visited by a truant officer. The rule was that ALL children MUST complete elementary school at least. Parents who failed to cooperate with the system were subject to civil action. They seldom objected because it was the way.
Emphasis was on basics, rigorous and preordained. We even learned the simple basics of manual training-what hammers, saws, drills, etc. were used for. I am amazed at how incompetent the current 20-40 year olds are in these matters. New math, finger painting, self-expression, Scotch, black, indio, native American, Slavic, culture classes were yet to incubate in future 'Doctors of Education' programs. Grading was determined by how well you learned the dictated material. If you did not learn a certain percentage (I think 50%) you FAILED-the big F-and repeated the class the following year. Achievement, good and bad was recognized and rewarded or punished. In most families at that simplistic time, the punishment for failure was greater at home than at school-certainly in our home.
There were two paths to take once one reached high school-the final three or four of twelve or thirteen. One aimed for a Metriculation degree, that was necessary for college and university, or a diploma used, but not essential, to enter a technical training school. There was little or no stigma then to choosing or being forced to the latter. One of the many faults of our current education system is the lack of respect for technical trainees and the inane belief that every child can and should go to a University. We should restore the respect for manual labor and professions such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters and the like. They contribute as much or more to society than the hordes of advertising and media flacks, realtors, salesman and the like. But I digress.
There was little or no resentment or animosity by the parents or the school children about these conditions. It was the way things were and generally believed to be the right way. Professional educators, teachers unions, civil rights advocates, psychologists and sociologists had yet to appear to screw things up. The classroom teachers had authority and flexibility in how they taught. Many were inspiring, truly devoted to their profession-not "8-to-5-ers" as seems to be the case today. Most important, they were not outnumbered by administrators.
I failed two subjects in my senior year. I had, belatedly, fallen victim to the "fun" life. It was 1942, jobs were plentiful to pre-consciption age males and I was happy to land a good job in an oil refinery and content to stay there. My mother, a stern disciplinarian with rock hard knuckles, convinced me that I should make up the two subjects and complete my Matric. Short of running away or suffering a concussion, I had no choice. I took a summer course and squeaked through algebra and chemistry.
That fall, I was accepted into a special army program designed by a politician to create instant officers. They reasoned that a crash course at the University of Toronto, concurrently with Basic Army training, followed by a course in "How to Be An Officer" would fill the need for junior officers to lead troops into battle. (I think this was the precursor to the introductory courses now offered at all Universities to provide credits for their semi-professional athletes). The year in university was enjoyable but I hated every boring moment of the following year in Army training camps. It was excellent training had I become a terrorist or soldier of fortune. Fortunately for me and the Canadian Army they decided that my 20/400 vision was a greeter threat to our troops than to the enemy and I was let loose in 1944. The greatest benefit I received from my military service was two years credit for University and typing skills learned by correspondence with the help of the Salvation Army chaplain. It was the expectation of my family that I would follow my elder brother's example and become an engineer. Being the agreeable fellow I was, and am, I posed no objection. Two events altered this plan.
First, the Dean of Engineering, after reviewing my High School and Army Course transcripts pronounced that I would be incapable of handling the maths necessary. This was not insurmountable; I could have gone to an American University who accepted almost any Canadian applicant, being in awe of their superior grasp of basics and English or unable to decipher our transcripts. I was, however, engaged to a dance hall girl (YWCA) I had met at a servicemen's center. Going to the States meant up to four years separation. What to do?
Again, the decision was made for me. Laurie (a Registered Nurse as well as a dancer) had nursed the Dean of the College of Forestry at Toronto. He had rhapsodized over the life of a forester and convinced her it was the ideal life. An outdoor girl and a born converter, she decided she could convert this city boy and suggested Forestry - I once again showed my complaisance and said "Why not." So, in 1944 I enrolled in forestry at Toronto.
I found Forestry to be as dull an experience as the Army. The Toronto school was typical of almost all forestry schools in North America-totally dedicated to extraction of trees at the least expense and damn the consequences. Ecology was considered the "garbage pail of science" if considered at all. It is indicative of the glacial pace of change in academia that there has been little change in forestry training. Economics is still paramount
Valuable lessons were learned there however. I learned that formal education is unrelated to intelligence. A university-trained man can be excruciatingly stupid and a self-taught man can be brilliant and inspirational. I learned chess, a love of history, and some philosophy from such a man while summer cruising. I learned that a true pedant can stretch a concept that can be grasped in several hours to 3 one-hour lectures a week for eight months.
The one and only time I was fired happened during these years. I was a crew chief on a vegetation survey in the Kananaskis Valley of Alberta in the summer of 1947. The forester-in-charge, a typical forestry graduate, informed us that we would cruise on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and map our results on Friday. By the third week we had accumulated enough data to keep us mapping for a week. A not unusual June snowstorm hit us on a Monday-visibility zero. Being in Alberta, with only 10 inches precipitation a year, we naturally had no rain gear. Being Monday, we were trucked to the survey area. All notes of all crews ended a sodden mass. Tuesday, the snow was worse. I suggested to the boss that we map.
"Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, we cruise, Friday we map" was the response. Same results-any plant less than 6" (Canada was not yet on metric) was buried. By noon, I initiated rebellion and took my crew to a line shack where we played battleships all afternoon. The other crews and the boss were somewhat annoyed when we were picked up dry and cheerful. I was warned that such behavior was punishable by dismissal.
Wednesday dawned (we think); the snow was almost at road closure level. I didn't bother to get dressed for the field thinking in my naïve way that surely now reason would prevail. In came the boss: "Let's go." I took a deep breath (remember I was, then as now, a mild and gentle person used to obeying my parents and teachers) and said in effect "No way." So he told me to get packing. I headed for Calgary and was thoroughly chastised by my father for such behavior. His work ethic was simple-the boss is always right. About 3:00 pm the phone rang and the Regional Forester asked me what the hell was going on. I told him, he told me to get my Ass (he was a rather profane man) back up there. All was sweetness and light the rest of the summer. We worked when the weather was clear, mapped when it rained or snowed.
From this I deduced that when you are in the right, fight! This served me well until I went in higher administration at Idaho. Then I was forced, after many defeats, to amend my principle to "When you're right, make sure you can win before you fight!" Also, to adopt the George Will definition: "Diplomacy is agreeing with your protagonist while reaching for a large rock."
Just prior to graduation, chance intervened again. I had received several job offers from forestry industries in the East. I was depressed, because it meant suffering the monotony of commercial forestry amid the hordes of black flies, mosquitoes, horse flies, and deer flies and slogging through the muskegs and impenetrable brush alder of eastern forests. A recruiter from the Forest Biology Division of Canada Agriculture showed up. One of the positions open was at a new forest entomology lab in Calgary, Alberta. I was the most enthusiastic volunteer and got the job. They did not seem to mind that I had had only one course in forest entomology and had received a C or D in it. My professor was Dr. Carl Atwood, an uninspirational teacher but an expert fly tie-er and the father of Margaret Atwood, the now-famous author. So began my forest entomology career.
Our first field season was spent in an abandoned Wardens' cabin in Banff National Park. My assignment was the lodgepole needle miner which was in outbreak. It was feared that we might have a situation similar to that in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite-the creation of a "Ghost Forest." We had electric light but no water or heat other than a wood stove. Our water came from an adjacent creek-you could drink the water from creeks in those days.
The moths were in flight that year and we tried to determine the egg-laying habits - to no avail. It wasn't until a smart-alec student assistant named Roy Shepherd found the eggs cunningly inserted inside excavated needles that we made any progress.
For my Masters thesis, we had chosen the development of a sampling plan as necessary for studying population dynamics. (Digression--one of my thesis advisors (unofficial) was Dr. Leonard Butler, a gifted teacher. He cleared up the fundamentals of Mensuration (forest measurement) in several hours that took a Forestry professor an entire term to obfuscate.) The method required counting larval mines in thousands of branch tips. I first ran across the practice of 'cooking' data during this exercise. We had several high school students hired to help with the counting. One of the University students advised me that he suspected one of manufacturing data. I tested him and found him incapable of detecting the larval mines. He had, therefore, created his results to fall between his bench mates. Fortunately, we detected this early so little time was lost. He was reassigned with a stern lecture on scientific ethics.
It may have happened again during my teaching career. I hope not. I did get an offer from one graduate student at Blodgett Forest to give me whatever I wanted in the way of bark beetle numbers - again for a sampling method. He was persuaded that a scientific research career was not for him and returned to the College of Education. He has since made a name for himself as an outstanding teacher in a tough high school in the Bay area.
Graduate work was required by the government. It was at their expense, so no problem. During graduate work at Toronto and later at U. British Columbia I learned much about the quality and character of Professors and curricula.
I had been raised on English literature when reading was still in vogue. One of the most inspiring books I had read was Good-by Mr. Chips. In all the professors I studied with, only two came close to that ideal. Prof. Diamond at Toronto, had a B.A., taught anatomy to med students, history of science and ethics to all. George Spender, M.A. at U.B.C. taught taxonomy and general entomology and was the unofficial advisor to all graduate students. Both inspired because their teaching was not restricted to science but covered living as a scientist. Both were great men, unencumbered by awards and honors.
Most professors were so self-centered that they could not relate to their students. I learned also that the most likeable professor could be the worst teacher and the least likeable the best.
My qualifying orals for the Ph.D. were the most traumatic time of my training. I went in full of confidence but soon lost it. The answers to examiners' questions depended on memory, not intelligence or reasoning power. I found out later this is true throughout much of academia. Nor was my major professor any help - he sat there and let them dissect me. I had gotten on the wrong side of one entomology prof, a recent acquisition from Cornell. I think I was older than him and he went out of his way to show how much smarter he was. An exception was the examiner from the humanities. We got into a lively discussion on the lasting power of Shakespeare and Shaw. I learned later that he had told the others that it was the first science oral he had attended where the candidate know anything about his outside subject.
He recounted an incident where the student had chosen music as his humanities specialty. The questions and answers went something like this:
"What instrument do you play?"
"Don't play one."
"Are you studying composing or conducting?"
"What is your interest in music?"
"I just like to listen and collect records." (This was BC and BCD-before cassettes and CDs).
"What kind do you collect?"
"Can you tell us your favorite classicist?"
As I was leaving, George Spender took me aside, commiserated with me and confided that given the inclination an examining board could fail anyone - including the profs. I was given a second chance and although the Chairman told me later that I had failed again, the committee passed me. I had done well on my defense of thesis - a separate trial and my class work had impressed them. I typed all my external assignments and drew elegant graphs. I thanked the thorough training of George Hopping, our Officer-in-Charge in Calgary for this.
The Calgary lab under George Hopping was an invaluable training ground. He was the son of Ralph Hopping, a Californian transplanted to Canada in the 20s. George edited and re-edited our reports and manuscripts until they were grammatically and factually correct. He encouraged us to summarize our data as it accumulated so that it was a short time from completion of an experiment or study to publication. We were also fortunate in that Canadian science maintained close ties to European work and our training included regular review of what was going on worldwide. Also, at University we had to learn to read two (later reduced to one) foreign languages so we were not dependent on reviewers' interpretations for much of the literature.
The Forest Biology Division at that time was headed by Dr. DeGryse, a Belgian with a good sense of humor and a talent for encouraging young scientists. He gave me valuable advice just prior to my first presentation at an international meeting. It was the 10th International Congress of Entomology in Montreal. Sensing that I was approaching hyper-space, he said: "Stark, when you get up on that podium, remember you know more about the lodge pole needle miner than anyone there. Also, before you begin, look over the entire auditorium and imagine them all sitting on toilet seats. It never fails!" It does help.
My first exposure to the relatively new WFIWC was in the early 50s. It was held in Moscow, Idaho, of all places. There I met the big names - Paul Keen, Ralph Hall, Bob Furniss and others. I gave a report on a sampling system I had devised for the needle miner. I remember it was thoroughly panned by the Americans. The hard time I had was softened as it led to an excursion to Yosemite National Park to compare needle miners and learn from their "experts." John McSwain, a brilliant and tragic figure, was there with a graduate student named Don Dahlsten. George Struble was my Forest Service host. Dahlsten was an impressionable city boy at the time. (Can you imagine him at this stage?) I remember McSwain and I swapping wild animal stories (mostly fibs) and then scaring Don by sneaking up on him after a trip to the loo.
We had developed a short cut sampling method for the needle miner and in cooperation with Bob Stevens set out to test it at Yosemite. It was based on sequential sampling, a method adapted from quality control techniques, and categorized populations as Light, Medium or Heavy. We asked George Struble to take us to areas which he thought fitted these. Imagine our delight when the sampling system worked. George was a gentle, polite man of deliberate speech. Over our field lunch he held his counsel while we youngsters gloated over our success. Finally he said: "I can't understand why we need to go to all the bother of cutting off those twigs and counting larval mines when I can tell you the severity of defoliation by visual inspection of the stand." We were nonplussed for a moment but then responded: "You're absolutely right, George, but then you won't always be around to ask."
Apparently instigated by John McSwain, in 1958, I was approached by UC Berkeley to apply for a position there. The incumbent, Art Moore, was being riffed or wanted out - I think the gaggle of students he had were getting to him. I was interested for several reasons; I still had an idealistic view of the academic world in spite of my graduate experience, Berkeley was ranked the top school then, my salary would be doubled (from $6M to 13M), the Bay area was a major attraction then and there was a move afoot to transfer the Calgary lab to Edmonton, a place where no native Calgarian wanted to live or die.
I was required to give a staff seminar and, according to McSwain almost blew it when I described the lodgepole needle miner as resembling a clothes moth! UCB was heavy in taxonomy then, and the statement outraged several profs.
I was impressed by the candor of the Dean of the College, E. Gorton Linsley. The appointment was 90% research, 10% teaching; my principal assignment was to be the population dynamics of the western pine beetle. He advised me that since I would be hired at the top of the Ass't Prof rank, that only gave me two years to prove myself because the next rank, Associate was linked to tenure and at that time they had an up or out policy. This step was only achieved by a rigorous examination of performance which was heavily weighted by the number of publications per year-in short the infamous "publish or perish" policy. I pointed out that a serious study of the population dynamics of an insect would not be conducive to many publishable papers in that time. His response was blunt - keep the pot boiling with side studies aided and abetted with the 10 or more graduate students I would inherit. Fortunately, at that time there was a wealth of unmined information easily available. With the aid of my student slaves, I made the grade.
My predecessors' graduate guidance method was to interfere with the students as little as possible. As a result, many were the happiest but most work-delinquent students I had ever met. Exceptions - not including Bill Bedard and C.J. DeMars - were several Forest Service men, Dick Smith, Bob Stevens, Bob Lyons for example. One professor was determined to oust Dahlsten who was trying to complete a Masters without slackening his social life - the Masters' was losing. The decision was delayed to see if the 'new boy' agreed or could whip him into shape. Don responded to gentle persuasion. (I learned later that 'failure' was a virtual NO-NO at UCB or elsewhere - once admitted graduation was almost guaranteed. Only the most exceptional circumstances would permit expulsion).
Although not 'my' student, Dave Wood was in the middle of a passionate courtship. The object of his affection, Caroline, spent more time at the Oxford tract than the students. The others, most of them Forest Service employees, were working at a bureaucratic pace, only slightly more productively than the "playboys of forest entomology"-our nickname.
I approached their rehabilitation cautiously. Although it was foreign to my nature, I joined in some of their customs, such as the two-martini lunches and after-hours pub-crawls. This occasionally got me into hot water. I did not know the argot of Berkeley - "Mary Jane" was a girls name, "speed" was for autos and planes, "joint" was for body parts or low-class drinking establishments; "grass" was for mowing. I did know that the use of marijuana and other drugs was illegal - I was completely out of touch. Several nameless students who participated in student field trips were accustomed to its use and on one trip jeopardized their and my careers by sharing their fun with undergraduate foresters - notorious tattletales. After my tirade, I don't think it ever happened again - at least without my consent.
I ran into a policy argument soon. Dahlsten had just finished the first draft of his Masters thesis and as was the practice, had padded it with everything possible in the belief that the thicker the Mss, the more impressive. I was convinced that since theses were supposed to be a scientific contribution, the proof of which was publication in a reputable journal, the thesis should be written publication ready. I therefore stripped the thesis to its fundamentals (removing about 60% fat in the process). We had a little trouble with the thesis committee but they went along - I was still in the honeymoon period. My stock and Don's increased in value when the unedited thesis was accepted by Canadian Entomologist with minor revision.
Then I asked to serve on Bob Lyons thesis committee. It was on pesticides, over 200 pages in length and included every reference ever published and dozens of unpublished reports, over half of which had little relevance to the research conducted. Stupidly, I did not check with his major prof but merrily blue-penciled over half the tome-trying to reduce it to publishable state. I think I recommended dividing it into several "chapters" which would constitute several papers. His professor, Hoskins, I think, was furious when Bob showed him my review.
This precipitated a Departmental committee (the typical academic and governmental response) on thesis policy. After many hours of debate, I found to my delight that many profs were supportive and from then on the form of the thesis was left up to the major professor.
Dealing with the Forest Service students was interesting. They were permitted time off to attend classes and the Berkeley station had a clerk whose job it was to make sure that that was what they did. I received almost daily calls to certify that C.J. Demars, Bill Bedard, Bob Stevens, Dick Smith, etc. were indeed in class. I finally appealed to the Director, John Maguire and had that nonsense stopped. At least they stopped calling me.
I learned a lesson in tact early at Berkeley. I was interviewed by a reporter who was doing a study of Forest Service research. He asked me what I thought of that being done at Berkeley. He hit me at a bad time. I had learned that the scientists at the PSW station were not permitted into the labs after closing time - they were in fact limited to 9-5 research unless they had the initiative to do their experimentation elsewhere. There was also a general feeling that one must conform to what was written down in various governmental manuals - almost that their research must support what they thought they knew rather than break new ground. I made the mistake of voicing this as my opinion. He quoted me almost verbatim. Other than good-humored protestations by several F.S. friends (John Maguire and Bob Callahan, neighbors as well) there was no apparent reaction and I gave it little thought.
Ten years later, I found that some higher-ups in the Forest Service had long memories. I had been nominated to be a member of the Committee of Scientists to advise the F.S. on the drafting of regulations for the National Forest Management Act. The list of candidates was made up by the national Academy of Science but the Forest Service had final say. I learned from John Maguire, now Chief, that one of the Deputies had argued vehemently against my appointment to the Committee and my later contracts with the Forest Service proves that black-listing was not policy-just the petty reactions of a few officials.
I cannot leave my Berkeley days (1959-70) without some mention of Blodgett Forest. We were fortunate in having a funding angel - the Walker Foundation - who permitted us to use some of their funds to build a field station there. I don't know whether those of you who have seen it noticed the somewhat wavy lines of shingles on the west side of the A-frame. One night almost all the forest entomologists were at Blodgett so we had a party (not an unusual occurrence) at the Buckeye Lodge - a favorite eating and drinking establishment on the Georgetown Divide. Dave Wood was on tequilas then and had won a lottery or had cashed in some stocks and offered to buy tequila for anyone who could stand it. Most could, up to a point. The next morning, almost at the point of a gun, Alan Berryman and Imre Otvos were sent up on the roof to continue the work. In addition to several squares of broken shingles, there is a noticeable dip in several of the rows. Blodgett was the site of the famous oleorein exudation pressure experiment. Two years of measuring the o.e.p of 200+ trees at two-hour intervals from spring to fall. To avoid missing readings in the wee small hours we often prevailed upon the friendly owner of the Buckeye Lodge to have private parties long after closing. Some might question the accuracy of the 2 and 4 a.m. readings. Practical jokes were frequent. Dave Wood "measured" the o.e.p. in a dead tree for several days before he caught on.
There are many more Blodgett stories which will have to await my memoirs - if I get around to completing them. Two bear telling here as one shows the character of one of our distinguished colleagues, the other bears on our relations with foresters and the College of Forestry.
The graduate student who offered me manufactured data was - by his admission - a veritable Casanova with several girls panting for his attention. He could not abide weekly absences from the Bay Area so he fell behind in his assistantship obligation. I cancelled all leave for him until he had caught up. After 7 or 8 days he was frantic, creating highly diverting reasons for letting him go but I was adamant. One evening, while we were enjoying the Southern Comfort version of tea and avocado dip, we heard a gunshot. Minutes later, the student came limping to our fireside announcing that he had wounded himself while cleaning his gun. Laurie and our hostess, Arline Tinus, both nurses, examined his foot over his protests and found that the bullet had very carefully passed between his big toe and the adjacent one, just breaking the skin. They dressed the wound and recommended a trip to Placerville for a tetanus shot. The student pleaded to be sent to his own doctor - in Berkeley of course - but I stood firm. John Borden was working with me then so I detailed him to escort the man to Placerville. I warned him that he would be pressured to go by way of Berkeley and he was not to give in under any circumstances. John later told me that he was offered handsome bribes and threatened with everything from removal of specific bodily parts to outright murder; but he was steadfast -- scared but steadfast.
The other tale concerns the reputation of forest entomologists in general, the Blodgett crew in particular. The Dean of Forestry, Henry Vaux called me and said that he received a letter from a citizen on the Georgetown Divide complaining about the reprehensible behavior of the forest entomology students and faculty. It cited particular incidents the details of which would take too long to recount or justify - if that were possible. Certainly, nobody had been hurt and no property damage resulted. I asked to see the letter but he would not show it to me; he also claimed it was anonymous. I received a long lecture on how such behavior reflected badly on the College of Forestry, the College of Agriculture and the University of California - there was no mention of how it reflected on forest entomology, apparently it was to be expected. I was asked (warned would be more apt) to keep our reprobates under control. It was suggested that perhaps we should place Buckeye Lodge and Camp Virner "off limits" for the summer.
On my return to Blodgett, I recounted the incident to friendly bartender/owner of the Buckeye, Robbie Cooper. The end result was that Dean Vaux received several letters from businessmen and barflies in Georgetown telling him in very plain Americanese to "lay off" the forest entomologists. The gist of their comments was that they thought little of the foresters who seldom stayed or spent a dime on the Divide. "You think you're too good for us locals" was the politest remark. The forest entomologists were portrayed as indistinguishable from the natives, who bought their groceries and other necessities there and were great socializers. We heard no more about it.
Our relationship with the College of Forestry was odd but not unusual. We were asked to provide an elective course in forest entomology and encouraged (by a few) to do collaborative research, but they would not give us a faculty appointment. I thought we were making progress to that end in 1961 or '62 but a social gaffe precipitated by Dave Wood set us back indefinitely. We were attending a fall social of "Forestry's" where the entertainment consisted of faculty and staff telling humorous tales on one another. Such as when Ed Stone fell in the creek. All such evoked hilarious laughter. It came Dave's turn and he demurred, saying that I would recite his favorite joke instead.
For those of you who don't know Dave well, he was one the best audiences a joke-teller could ask for. For certain jokes, no matter how often told, you could always count on Dave to react satisfactorily. The joke in question is a scatological one involving a Mexican bandit, Pancho, a humble peasant and his burro. The punch line is "Do I know Pancho, I had lunch with him." Dave enjoyed it so that to get a laugh from him, I merely had to recite the punch line. Thanks to the L.A. Times and NAFTA it is no longer 'Politically Correct.' To resume, I was full of joie de vivre so consented. The reaction was similar to that when one emits flatus in church-except for Dave. I'm not sure whether he was laughing at the joke or my discomfiture. It has been speculated that this incident set back the discussion of joint appointments indefinitely.
I did a survey of entomology and pathology offerings in forestry schools in the U.S. and found that entomology and pathology were treated the same almost everywhere. Given the rigidity of Forestry schools and their inability to see the trends in forest sciences and management, the current state of flux in academia and government forest agencies does not surprise me.
My first professional interaction with pathology was the study referred to by Dave Wood last year - the smog-bark beetle study. (Social interaction had begun earlier with killer darts and hearts - entomology was the master of the first, Fields Cobb and Dick Parmeter kings of the hearts game). The study was reported in 4 Hilgardia papers which I believe are among our most significant efforts of that time. What is not widely known is how the final "theoretical" paper was composed.
We (Fields Cobb, Dick Parmeter, Dave Wood and I) booked rooms at a motel in Lake Arrowhead for a weekend, laid in a suitable supply of refreshments - liquid and solid - and vowed to stay at it until we had an agreed upon draft. Given the propensity of Wood and Cobb to dominate discussions, get sidetracked and to get emotional at times, I was elected moderator and all swore an oath to obey my rulings. It was a tempestuous weekend. Friendships were disavowed, parentages were questioned, scientific qualifications were challenged but we got the job done. It is not a method recommended for adoption except by the intellectually and emotionally secure.
The School of Forestry was not pleased when Fields Cobb began his cooperative root disease studies at Blodgett since these involved the digging of innumerable "heffalump traps" throughout the forest. I haven't been back there since the early 70s but have been reassured that a significant portion of the forest is still passable and no one has been trapped.
There has been much speculation of why I left the pinnacle of Berkeley in 1970 to go to the University of Idaho (also known to Easterners particularly as U. Ohio, Iowa or Where?). It was not, as some suspected, out of fear. I had concluded that my abandonment at the top of the Sierras by Dave Wood was an accident unintelligible and inexcusable - but an accident and that he had no sinister designs on me. Nor was it entirely dissatisfaction with the University. I had almost left in 1966-67. I had become disenchanted with UCB over the handling of the student unrest. I felt that the President Clark Kerr had behaved in a cowardly manner and had caused to be sacrificed a distinguished scholar, Chancellor Strong. Our College and Departmental administration had tried to coerce a unanimous support vote for Kerr. During this fracas, a senior research post had opened in Maine. I actually interviewed and tentatively accepted. But reason prevailed. In spite of the fact that it would provide entry to the lucrative spruce budworm and gypsy moth troughs, it would also have meant working in the east on an unsolvable problem. I went on sabbatical instead.
On my return from sabbatical the Bay Area was no longer as appealing as hitherto. I was on tranquilizers as well as Rolaids and aspirin. The drive from our home now took an hour -i f there were no fender-benders - where it had taken 25 mins. Drug pushers and serious vandalism were reported around our children's school.
The following year, 1969, I was contacted by a selection committee for the position of Graduate Dean/Coordinator of Research at the University of Idaho. Apparently Jack Schenk had put my name in the pot. I was receptive for the above reasons and because - I admit it - I had grandiose ideas of how I could improve the academic world in such a position. The President, Ernest Hartung, was a charmer who knows all the right buttons. Their choice of me was primarily because of my reputation in obtaining funds for research as much as my research accomplishments. The Graduate School was an afterthought - each College was left to its own devices, the Graduate office was merely a record keeper.
I will spare you the gory details of the internal struggles of higher administration. My education was broadened into areas of chicanery, double-dealing, backstabbing and incompetence that I did not believe could persist in academia. The first five years were tolerable. We did make an impression both in research funding and in graduate standards but the means led to stiffening opposition that eventually stalled progress. Having become disenchanted with the scholastic world I was ripe for offers such as assisting on the Douglas Fir Tussock Moth Program and then directing the western component of CANUSA (Canada- USA Spruce Budworm Research and Development Program).
While at Idaho, I did keep a pinky in research. We had a component of the National Science Foundation Integrated Pest Management Project - the mountain pine beetle component of the three-pronged bark beetle segment. That was a lively time. Walt Cole at the Intermountain station in Ogden, seemed to resent our intrusion into his terrain, perhaps because Alan Berryman and other University "types& disagreed with many of his group's conclusions. He went so far as to try to scuttle the Symposium we arranged to wind up the project. Cooler Forest Service heads, such as Gene Amman and Al Stage, prevailed.
I had several excellent graduate students join me at Idaho. Dave Kulhavy, now at Nacadoches and recent winner of an E. S. A. teaching award, Yemi Katerere, a Zimbabwean, now Director of their Forestry Division and Bill Kemp, with an agriculture unit somewhere in Montana all reminded me that they were what graduate education was all about - not the self-imposed travails of administrators. The years spent with the Forest Service on the tussock moth and spruce budworm were enjoyable. They brought me back in touch with most of the researchers I had "grown" with. Our relations had subtly altered, however, since I was now part of the conduit for research support. No matter that funding decisions were made by a screening committee, the focal point for disgruntlement was the Program Director.
On the tussock moth program, I was the assistant to Ken Wright, now retired but working as hard or harder as a volunteer at the PNW in Portland. Although the designated flak-catcher, I could always, if the heat got too intense, let it be known that I was a mere mouthpiece. Fortunately, I did not have to use that play often.
The CANUSA project was more difficult. Having international ramifications, more vocal than substantive, the two components, east and west were over-directed from Washington and Ottawa. I was the perfect candidate for the West. I did not know the rules of Washington bureaucracy and had nothing to lose. According to Bob Lyon, who was then in the D.C. office, my memos, particularly to the unnecessary Washington editor, known familiarly as "Fat Broad," were widely circulated and appreciated but with the caution "not to be emulated." I said unnecessary because we had one of the best in house - Martha Brookes - the surrogate Mother to all the scientists at Corvallis. We finally gained editorial independence when F.B. trashed a paper by one of our eminent scientists, Bob Campbell, which had been edited by Martha. They were able to show what a lousy job (perhaps deliberate) F.B. had done. Her work was then restricted to the eastern seaboard.
I could not become accustomed to the Washington demand for projections on numbers of papers which in the interim of a few weeks became a schedule of publications. The Washington editor tried to put us on the spot by publishing these projections as fact in the international Newsletter. I fired off a particularly nasty memo which earned me an official rebuke from the Station Director - but he had a smile on his face as he delivered it.
I was in the fortunate position of having two expert assistant flak-catchers -J im Colbert and Russ Mitchell. Russ is now retired but Jim is still crunching numbers in Morgantown. Russ and Jim used to play good-cop, bad-cop for me with F.B. and recalcitrant scientists. I would rant and holler and they would soothe ruffled feathers. It worked surprisingly well.
Editing the final products - the Tussock Moth book particularly - was reminiscent of the Lake Arrowhead-Hilgardia experience. Martha Brookes, Bob Campbell and I spent many days and nights fighting over wording and style. Since then I have never been able to start a sentence with "however." Generally, however, we did work well together and had fun exposing snow jobs and deciphering jargon. One classic sticks in my mind to this day. It was a study on spray technology. In a Germanic sentence consisting of about 50 words, physics jargon, all the author said was "When a droplet strikes a leaf it stops." Honest. This seemed so redundant that we thought we had mistranslated the sentence; so we phoned the author. With reluctance he admitted that that was what was meant.
I've rambled on enough, there are many more pleasurable anecdotes to tell but you'll have to wait for the full text. I've been fortunate in that I was in the right place at the right time with the right equipment. The period following WW II was a fortunate one in which to be active. Money was plentiful, jobs were plentiful, there was a wealth of knowledge to be picked up relatively easily. The decline in support for entomology and pathology and science in general is disheartening. Many blame the various environmental laws imposed on forest management. Forest managers are asked to do too much with too little. This is true but it is not the fault of legislation, in particular the National Forest Management Act. When the Committee of Scientists submitted their report, they warned that the demands of the Act and subsequent regulations would necessitate large increases in budgets for the National Forests. Congress has not followed through on the funding.
There seems to be a minor revolution brewing in the Forest Service at the grass roots level - perhaps because they now have a biologist rather than an economist in charge. At a meeting of a 100-plus district rangers and managers from Montana and Idaho the consensus was that more authority at the district level and less bureaucracy was needed. Cuts - if any are required - should be at the Washington and Regional Office levels, not at the Forest level.
Although it is difficult to believe the papers - particularly when reporting Washington politics - there appears to be hope for the future. According to the Spokesman-Review (that's a paper in Spokane, Washington - you know, in the Northwest - east of Seattle) the Gore "reinventing government" program proposes to cut Forest Service red tape in half. The Forest Service has been designated a "reinvention laboratory" (Don't you love Washington jargon?), a guinea pig for other federal agencies on how to become leaner and meaner. Depending on your level of optimism or pessimism this could be good news or bad news. I'm an optimist, with a strong streak of pragmatism. Given the obvious need for improving the total health of our forest in North America and the fact that the present system is not working to that end-for a multitude of reasons, something's gotta give.
Entomologists and pathologists can influence the end project by accelerating the present trend towards a truly unified approach to forest health strongly emphasizing that to maintain health, prevention is probably more critical than any curative practices. Also to keep in the public and politic eye that forest health is not restricted to bigger and better trees. It includes the water, soil and air and the inhabitants therein.
Since the late 60s there has been increasing integration of forest disciplines in Canada and the U.S. with the goal of increasing forest health. Much has been merely renaming bureaucratic units but also melding of complementary units has occurred. You cannot, however, legislate truly cooperative efforts. The workers have to want to work together.
This conference should - if it has not done so - attempt to define the ideal group, Department, Work Unit, whatever - to achieve forest health. It would start, naturally, with entomologists and pathologists, a soils expert, a hydrology expert, an ornithologist, a wildlifer etc. You see what I mean. You might also want to include the various disciplines dealing with human behavior-to determine how to get them to work together for the common good.
Having tried at least to insert a "message" into what is a largely frivolous exhortation I hope I have achieved the marks of an acceptable speech - somewhat entertaining but with utility as well. I thank you again for the honor and privilege of speaking to you.
Published in the 1995 WFIWC proceedings