Growing up, Dr. Roger E. Gold had to be tough and adaptable. His father was trained as a civil engineer in the military, and that translated to his dad working as a project manager in the construction industry when he returned home from World War II.
As a result, Dr. Gold constantly was introduced to new places and faces; he never knew how long his family would remain in the same location. Moving between California, Nevada, Montana and Utah, Dr. Gold often worked as a custodian on his father’s construction crews.
“I always assumed I’d pursue a profession in one of the trades because that’s the type of work I was exposed to growing up and it made sense,” said the 2011 Pest Management Professional (PMP) Hall of Fame inductee.
But as Dr. Gold grew older, some of the more physically demanding stints in difficult environments, such as long-hours with the asphalt and concrete crews, turned him away from the trades. He decided to earn a college degree so he wouldn’t have to do such work for the rest of his life.
Finding His Way
In 1962, Dr. Gold was accepted to the University of Utah, where he planned to become a dentist. The humble Dr. Gold said he wasn’t the brightest student during his introductory science courses, but he was willing to outwork his peers, a trait he inherited from his father.
During his first two years at the university, Dr. Gold became innately interested in an aquatic entomology course, which involved collecting stream samples for testing and research.
“Because my family was always on the move, I had the opportunity to fish in many beautiful environments, a hobby I still enjoy,” he said.
After completing two years of introductory science courses at the university, Dr. Gold partook in the Southern States Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from 1964 to 1966, traveling throughout Georgia and South Carolina.
“The missionary trip was good for my development as a young man because it forced me to interact with strangers,” he said. “It exposed me to new environments, and it made me adapt to new surroundings.”
In 1966, Dr. Gold returned to the University of Utah. During the next two years, he earned a bachelor’s of science degree from University of Utah’s Department of Zoology and Entomology, married his longtime girlfriend, and they welcomed their first child, Roger Shane Gold. Dr. Gold stayed put, for a change, and earned a master’s degree in biology from the University of Utah in 1970, the same year their second child, Ryan, was born.
Later that year, the Golds moved to California when Dr. Gold was offered a full scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in entomology from the University of California-Berkeley. In 1974, Dr. Gold earned his doctorate and the Golds welcomed their third child, Christopher.
After graduation, Dr. Gold applied for a job at the University of Arizona. Later that year, he was hired by George Ware, then head of the school’s entomology department. Ironically, the reason Dr. Ware selected Dr. Gold among all the applicants was his ability to operate heavy machinery.
About the same time Dr. Gold started at the University of Arizona, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced guidelines requiring new certification for those applying pesticides in urban and agricultural areas. Dr. Gold’s new position made him a one-man show in the training process as he set up programs throughout the state.
After five years of conducting successful training programs, Dr. Gold was approached by one of his colleagues, Dr. Martin Massengale, who was taking a job at the University of Nebraska as vice chancellor. Dr. Massengale wanted Dr. Gold to come with him. Once there, Dr. Gold established the Center for Environmental Programs, which included certification training, integrated pest management and research in urban entomology. Eventually, Dr. Gold became head of the Department of Entomology, and Director of the Water Center.
Since 1989, Dr. Gold has held the position of Endowed Chair for Urban and Structural Entomology at Texas A&M University, a position he’s held since 1989. Responsible for research, teaching and extension programs involving integrated management of insects near the environments of humans and pets, Dr. Gold’s principle interests include emerging pests such as fire ants, bedbugs, Formosan and native subterranean termites, and Rasberry crazy ants.
Additionally, he’s a professor for undergraduates studying urban entomology. Gold’s courses provide an overview of the importance of insects and the role they’ve played in the development of human society, as well as current information about the biology and movement of insect populations in urban and structural environments. He also spearheads a research program for graduates that specializes in cockroaches, ants, termites and bedbugs.
Most of all, the humble Dr. Gold is proud of his students’ professional accomplishments.
“Some of my students hold legislative and agricultural positions within the government; some have served overseas as military entomologists; and some have started their own pest control companies — so we’ve collaborated together to give back to the industry,” he said.
Dr. Gold has developed a multitude of funding sources throughout the years to support myriad programs in urban entomology for the development of training materials such as publications, videotaped educational programs and slide presentations. Additionally, these extensions develop and implement integrated management programs for insects associated with structures that will reduce pest populations while protecting humans, their pets and the environment. All told, he has helped raise more than $20 million dollars to advance the industry on this front.
Dr. Gold’s renowned research represents a balance between basic and applied research of urban insect pest management. He places emphasis on the basic biology of pest species and their parasites, predators and pathogens.
A member of several professional and scientific societies, Dr. Gold has authored countless cutting-edge papers for scientific journals and trade publications. He regularly delivers riveting technical presentations to pest management professionals (PMPs) attending conferences and workshops.
Dr. Gold is a world-class educator, groundbreaking researcher and cherished mentor — an industry advocate for the ages.
“I always thought I’d be a dentist,” he says. “My parents did, too. In fact, they still believe I am.”