Washington State University's Department of Entomology was recently gifted $1.4 million - and a collection of more than 3,000 entomological specimens - from the estate of deceased master gardener James Hyde.

WSU Associate Entomologist Rich Zack said the specimens will be added to the university's M.T. James Entomological Collection. The monetary contribution, which officials say is the largest donation of its kind to be directed toward the department, will be split into three parts.

One-third of the funding will be directed to support the collection, while another third will fund a new scholarship program for entomology students called the Hyde Fellowship.

"That's a big thing for our department because that really allows us recruit and find some of the better students in the country and convince them to come to WSU," Zack said.

Zack said there are other scholarships for the entomology program but none reaching the scale allowed by the contribution from the Hyde estate.

The last piece of the endowment will go toward creating the James Hyde Speaker Series, Zack said, bringing in nationally and internationally recognized scientists to speak at events hosted by the university.

"These are things that are tremendously valuable that we really didn't have the opportunity to do before because we just didn't have that type of funding," Zack said. "For the collection and for the department, it is a game changer - it allows us to work at a different level than we did before."

As a former student, Hyde had a close relationship with WSU through its master gardener program, Zack said. Zack described master gardeners as close-knit volunteer groups often run through universities that make themselves available as an advisory resource to their communities.

Hyde spent an active retirement in Kennewick doing entomological outreach and education in the Tri-Cities.

"(Master gardeners are) like a first line of defense for people that are having some type of (gardening) problems," Zack said. "Towards the end, after he retired, he got real involved in doing like school groups and going and talking to kids at schools and telling about insects and we worked with him quite a bit on that."

While Hyde had his own training tools, Zack said the university would also supply him with props and additional specimens to use in his outreach. Some of Hyde's own collection of about 600 different species and 3,000 individual specimens will be incorporated into the university's collection of more than 3 million specimens, Zack said. Much of the university's collection is arranged according to species and type of insect, while Hyde's collection is arranged more intuitively for the purposes of education. Zack said these specimens will be valuable for the university's outreach and education programs.

"That's kind of valuable because then we've got almost like pre-made boxes of stuff we can show to people that we don't have to put together, so that's really nice," Zack said. "The specimens themselves, as I say, are not necessarily rare or anything like that, but it's nice to have it put together in the way that it is."

Moving forward, Zack said the donation not only propels WSU's entomology program to new heights but it was an unexpected boost to efforts to establish a roughly $3 million endowment for the school's entomological collection. While the entomology department itself is in good shape, Zack said the collection receives no funding from the university. He said Hyde's contribution will help ensure the perpetuity of the program he worked with so closely in life.

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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