PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University has an independent entomology department thanks in large measure to Horace S. Telford, a retired member of the WSU faculty who petitioned the university for its creation almost a half century ago.
Now his three living children wish to honor him by establishing the Horace and Vilma Telford Family Distinguished Professorship in Entomology. Charles H. Telford, Redmond; Carol Ann Telford Butler, Hagatna, Guam; and Vivian Telford Anderson, Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., have pledged $100,000 to endow the position.
The family intends to make additional gifts of $150,000 to qualify it for a $250,000 match in accordance with the state’s Distinguished Professorship Matching Grant Program. The match will establish the position.
Telford, who will celebrate his 91st birthday in December, has wanted to give something to the university. He said, “My children suggested the distinguished professorship.”
Horace and his twin brother Horton were born in Lincoln, Idaho, near Idaho Falls, on Dec. 16, 1909. Their father, John, was a farm advisor, accountant, sheepherder and farmer. Their mother, Anna, was one of the area’s first registered nurses as well as being a housewife.
Telford’s early interest in natural history and insects followed him to college. After earning an associate of arts degree at Chaffey Junior College in Ontario, Calif., in 1931, he enrolled at the University of Utah where he received a bachelor’s of science in zoology in 1933. He completed a master’s of science in entomology at the University of Minnesota three years later and a doctorate in entomology at the same university in 1941.
He started his career in 1934 in Salt Lake where he worked briefly as a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and later as a research biologist at the Michigan Institute for Fisheries Research.
After the Idaho native completed his doctorate in entomology at the University of Minnesota in 1937, he did extension work there until taking a position in the entomology department at North Dakota State in 1940.
He moved into the private sector in 1944, taking a job at Dr. Hess & Clark, Inc., in Ashland, Ohio. There he made the important discovery that DDT accumulates in body fat and milk. He returned to academia in 1947 when he accepted a position as an associate professor of entomology at Washington State.
In the early 1950’s Telford petitioned the university to unite entomology faculty in the department of zoology with entomologists scattered across the state working for the College of Agriculture into a single unit within the College of Agriculture. When his petition was granted, he was named the department’s first chair, a position he held from 1952 to 1968. During those years, the department grew from seven to 25 faculty.
Telford retired from WSU in 1975 but continued to teach part-time into the next decade at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. He also secured a grant from the Brazilian government to do research and serve as a consultant at the Federal University of Parana for one year.
He married his late wife Vilma in Seattle in 1958. They had met when she had come to Washington to take a job as an extension agent in the Colfax office. She died in 1998 at the age of 89. “She kept everything going,” he said.
Telford lives in Pullman and enjoys visits from his children and grandchildren.
– 30 –