Campus Life

Longtime Texas A&M Leader, Nationally Recognized Entomologist Dies

From professor to chancellor, Perry Adkisson advanced agriculture and Texas A&M.
By Kay Ledbetter, Texas A&M AgriLife Communications June 29, 2020

black and white portrait of perry adkisson
Perry Adkisson was a former chancellor of the Texas A&M University System.

Texas A&M AgriLife

Perry Adkisson, the former leader of the Texas A&M University System and internationally known agricultural scientist in the area of entomology, has died.

Adkisson became a professor of entomology at Texas A&M University in 1958, and went on to serve as the chancellor of the Texas A&M University System from 1986 to 1990 before retiring in 1994 as a distinguished professor. During his long career at Texas A&M, he also served as deputy chancellor, vice president for agriculture and renewable resources, and head of the Department of Entomology.

“Texas A&M and Texas agriculture are eternally grateful for the contributions Dr. Adkisson made during his years of service,” said Patrick Stover, vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “His leadership and dedication will serve as an example for all faculty, current and future.”

Adkisson was an early pioneer in developing the concepts for integrated pest management through his research on control of the insect pests of cotton. He led the development of highly successful integrated control programs for the boll weevil, bollworm and other key pests of cotton and saw these programs implemented on millions of acres of Texas cotton. He also was instrumental in the development and implementation of similar programs for other major Texas crops.

His most important work was toward preventing the spread of the boll weevil in the High Plains of Texas. The weevil was discovered there in 1962, and the farmers on the High Plains became very concerned. Adkisson helped develop a diapause control program that not only prevented the spread of the weevil, but virtually eliminated it from the High Plains. The success of this program led to the development of an eradication program.

As chancellor, Adkisson worked with the state legislature and U.S. Congress to increase funding by almost 50% for the research, teaching and extension programs of the Texas A&M System. He established several new research-teaching centers, including the Institute of Biosciences and Technology in Houston, and gained approval for the construction of several new buildings. He also successfully led the effort to bring Corpus Christi State University, Texas A&I University — now Texas A&M University-Kingsville — Laredo State University and West Texas State University — now West Texas A&M University — into the Texas A&M System.

perry adkisson standing in a field
Adkisson’s pest control programs were used on millions of acres of cotton in Texas.

Texas A&M AgriLife

Shortly after President George H. W. Bush was elected, Adkisson began working to get President Bush and the U.S. National Archives to locate Bush’s presidential library on the Texas A&M campus. He later was named executive director of the Bush Presidential Library Center and the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation.

He also was named a Regents Professor of entomology, Chancellor Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus. Adkisson was also inducted into the Texas Heritage Hall of Honor at the State Fair of Texas in 1998.

Adkisson received the three most prestigious international awards in agriculture — the Alexander Von Humboldt Award, the Wolf Prize in Agriculture, and the World Food Prize. He was listed among the 25 agricultural scientists having the greatest impact on U.S. agriculture in the 20th century.

Other recognitions he earned over his lifetime included: Entomological Society of America’s J. Everett Bussart Award for Outstanding Research in Economic Entomology; Man of The Year for Texas Agriculture, Progressive Farmer; Distinguished Texas Scientist of the Year by the Texas Academy of Sciences; and Distinguished Service Awards from the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the American Agricultural Editors Association.

Adkisson was elected to The National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and served as president of the Entomological Society of America.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture and master’s degree in agronomy from the University of Arkansas. He earned a doctorate in entomology from Kansas State University in 1956 and did his postdoctoral work at Harvard University.

Services will be live streamed via Facebook by Memorial Funeral Chapel at 3 p.m. July 3.

This article by Kay Ledbetter originally appeared on AgriLife Today.

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