New endowed chair role helps longtime Extension scientist support better pest control

PUYALLUP, Wash. – After accepting a new leadership role earlier this year, WSU’s Todd Murray recently added another title that allows him to do research work in a field he loves.

Murray, standing outside on tree-lined walk, with arms crossed.
Todd Murray

Murray was named the Norman Ehmann Endowed Chair in Urban Pest Management, after taking over as the director of WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center this summer.

“This is a dream job, to be honest,” said Murray, a WSU alum who has worked in Extension for over 20 years. “This addition is really an unbelievable turn for me and I’m excited to fill this role.”

Urban pest management is the interaction of people with insects and pests, including pests in homes, in landscaping, and “basically any pests that affect people in the areas we live,” Murray said.

He plans to meet with stakeholders who funded the position to talk about research needs in the industry, and provide educational outreach opportunities as the Ehmann Chair.

Murray is the first professor to hold the chair.

“We think this is a wonderful opportunity to bring dedicated research and educational opportunities to the Pacific Northwest urban pest management community,” said Laura Lavine, chair of WSU’s Department of Entomology. “Todd will be great in this position. He’s an excellent educator and researcher.”

Murray has been doing research and leading workshops on urban, invasive, and exotic pests for more than two decades, but he never met Norm Ehmann, the chair’s namesake.

Ehmann worked in private industry as a vice president at Van Waters & Rogers, now Univar. He focused on education and travelled extensively around the U.S. to help urban pest management professionals, according to Terry Whitworth.

Whitworth, who founded the western Washington business Whitworth Pest Solutions, knew Ehmann well and is a member of the advisory committee that helps distribute funds from the Ehmann endowment.

The pest control industry in Washington and Oregon wanted to honor Ehmann when he retired, and many companies donated to create the endowment in his name in the mid-2000s. Ehmann died in 2009 at age 84.

“He was considered the father of the structural pest industry,” Whitworth said. “He helped educate and make the industry more professional. We’re excited to see what Todd does as chair of Norm’s endowment.”

WSU previously used funds from the endowment to fund research projects in partnership with the advisory committee. Naming a specific person to use those funds will have more impact on the industry, Lavine said.

“Todd is a great educator, a leader, and has disciplinary expertise,” Lavine said. “We know he will solve problems that will help the industry, and spread knowledge in the Extension tradition. It’s a perfect match.”