diference makers: Dr. Austin M. Frishman


August 10, 2013

When and why did you first fall for the bug business?

Since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I’ve been fascinated with insects and other creatures that live outdoors. Collecting came naturally. Two individuals helped direct me:

  • Tom Nickou, my high school biology teacher, was the first to explain I could seek a career in entomology. He helped guide me to Cornell University. Once in college, I was encouraged to seek employment in a field of entomology during the summer.
  • Al Hochman of Clover Exterminating opened his doors and gave me every opportunity to learn. Both men are in their 90s. I try to visit or speak with them regularly.

What are a few of the obstacles facing the industry?

I look at obstacles as challenges, which can be changed into opportunities. As our industry grows in professionalism and size, there’s a challenge to balance science with the marketing and sales end of the business. Educating the public about how important our work is might be the biggest challenge. How can our industry provide a bigger, positive impact to help the tens of thousands of people living in poverty along with their pest problems nationally and globally?

What are three opportunities for the industry? Opportunities are everywhere. Just look:

  1. Use other technologies to help pest management professionals (PMPs) work more effectively.
  2. Create a combined force to work more closely with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), local and state departments of health, military and the food industry.
  3. Expand further into rodent-proofing and environmental services.

How many years have you been speaking at the Purdue Pest Management Conference?

I attended my first conference in January 1965 and gave a presentation about the use of Vapona strips to control German cockroaches in apartments. Subsequently, I attended and gave at least 40 more presentations during the next five decades. In 1968, as part of my new faculty position, I was asked to coordinate the conference. It was hectic, exciting and exhausting. It opened up contacts for me throughout North America. I’m grateful to have had such an opportunity. At that conference, I encouraged Lystad to bring 100 technicians. They all came dressed in red jackets. That increased attendance to more than 400, and the success of the conference never looked back.

When and why did you decide we needed a Pest Control Hall of Fame?

It was on my mind for several years before mentioning it. We needed an event because if we didn’t recognize ourselves, no one else would. I wanted to structure it after the Baseball Hall of Fame, whereby a person needed a decided-upon number of years in the industry before they could be inducted. It would encompass PMPs, educators, administrators, distributors, publishers and whoever else worthy of recognition. To recognize and help stimulate funds for the Purdue Entomology Department, I suggested a Purdue University Wall of Fame. It was just an extension of an idea from our synagogue.

Did you ever get around to announcing your retirement?

Retirement is a difficult word to say, let alone do. As I “retire” from different types of activities, the industry has surprised me with overwhelming appreciation. I’ve been blessed and privileged to work with so many different groups. By the end of this year, or maybe early 2014, it’s my intention to retire from on-the-road-again seminars. It’s my intention to be able to continue to write my column for Pest Management Professional (PMP) for a while and work with a handful of companies from afar. But it’s difficult to sever yourself from what you’ve loved your entire adult life.

What are you doing now?

My priorities by choice have changed, so I no longer start at 7 a.m. and remain engaged in pest management after midnight. I spend quality time with my grandchildren, children and my wife, Barbara. I continue to contribute a monthly column to PMP, three articles a year for the Nevada Pest Control Association newsletter, and a monthly online column for Syngenta called “Doc’s Dialogue.” With the urging of Paul Bello, a former student, we’re co-authoring a revision of my Cockroach Combat Manual. It should be out by October. PMP has been kind enough to publish a sample of the book (Editor’s Note: See page 20). I keep about 20 different pest management companies informed with a private monthly newsletter, keeping them up-to-date about vital topics and advising them when asked. I’ve limited my speaking engagements to less than 20 a year, including key seminars for Univar, Bayer and a handful of pest management companies. In my spare time, I fish, golf, run on the treadmill, bike and swim. pmp


At A Glance: Dr. Austin M. Frishman

Title: Zadie (Grandfather in Yiddish)

Years in pest management: Because of my interest in insects at a young age, my first ant control job was in the fall of 1954. My mother and stepdad moved to Florida into a structure that had been unoccupied for at least six months. It was crawling with ants and scorpions. My mom incorporated integrated pest management (IPM) by smashing the scorpions with her shoe. They then gave me DDT dust to carefully treat the cracks in the baseboards. My first job was a success. Based on that job, we’re just short of 60 years.

Industry mentors: Dr. John Osmun, Bill Butts from my days at Purdue University, Arnold Mallis and E.O. Wilson.

Top three industry achievements to date:

  • Established an urban pest management program at SUNY at Farmingdale, N.Y. Under my tutelage, more than 200 students graduated and entered the field of pest management. In conjunction with this, about 2,000 pest management technicians, supervisors and managers enrolled in my pest control, night-school classes. At one time, I conducted six classes with about 50 in each class. Pesticide certification was launched. So many people needed so much in such a short time.
  • Helped coordinate the development of the first successful German cockroach bait. Today it’s known as Maxforce and Combat. Just as important as the development was the hurdle to convince our industry to switch to bait. I probably spent more than 100 days on the road presenting seminars throughout North America, all sponsored by American Cyanamid, then Clorox and Bayer. This paradigm in thinking is well established to the point technicians are looking for bait for everything.
  • Bringing new technology and basic education to the industry for more than 45 years. I realize the gift of teaching, motivating and encouraging people to better their lives isn’t to be taken lightly. Somehow I acquired it, and I feel obligated to use this gift to help wherever I can.

Jerry Mix was editor/publisher of PMP until his retirement in 2004. Contact Mix, a member of the PMP Hall of Fame (Class of 2005), at jnmix@aol.com.


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