Published: March 31, 2016

Gordon Guyer, MSU’s 18th president, dies

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Gordon Guyer, Michigan State University’s 18th president, died on March 30 at age 89. He was born in Kalamazoo May 30, 1926.

Guyer, who was president from 1992-93, was a Spartan for life. He came to MSU in 1947 to begin studies in fisheries and wildlife. He later switched to entomology and received his bachelor's degree in 1950. Two years later, he earned his master's degree, and in 1954 he received his doctorate, both in entomology. He joined the faculty in 1953.

“Gordon Guyer was one of those people who, whenever there was an important position to fill, was always on the list,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon recalled. “He was known and respected in every corner of the state through his MSU Extension work, and for his knowledge and his advocacy for Michigan State. He had an enormous capacity to connect with people and to rally support for good ideas. He saw the potential in people sometimes before they or others recognized it – after all he appointed Tom Izzo men’s basketball coach.

“This isn’t just a loss for this institution but it’s a deeply personal loss for Roy and me, so on behalf of the entire Spartan family we want to offer our most sincere condolences to Mary and to the rest of Gordon’s family.”

Guyer was a professor and chairperson for the entomology department, and the director of MSU’s Pesticide Research Center, an institute he played a lead role in establishing. The center is no longer in existence, but pesticide research is conducted by multiple MSU departments. He also served as director of MSU Extension from 1973 to 1985.

One of Guyer’s best memories of his time at MSU was presenting an honorary doctorate, posthumously, in 1986 to George Wallace. Wallace, an MSU zoology professor whose research was the subject of Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” linked the use of the pesticide DDT to the death of robins on MSU’s campus.

Guyer, an esteemed researcher in his own right, authored more than 70 papers on aquatic ecology, insect control technology, integrated pest control, public policy and international agriculture. He received a National Science Foundation grant to participate in the International Congress of Entomology in London in 1964. He also served as chairperson of the insect control delegation for the National Academy of Sciences in 1975.

Internationally, Guyer led one of the first American scientific groups allowed to visit China in the mid-1970s. He also traveled to Africa under United Nations’ sponsorship to develop plant-protection education and research efforts in eight countries.

Guyer also presided over the switch of the academic calendar from quarters to semesters, which had already been approved prior to his term. He gave MSU’s 20th president, Lou Anna K. Simon, the nod as an accomplished university administrator when he named her interim provost.

His first wife, Norma Lake Guyer, died in 2001. He is survived by his second wife, Mary Gettel Guyer.

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