***Updated on Sept. 21, at 3 p.m.***
HONOLULU – Gene White, global director of vector management, Rentokil-Initial and one of the pest control industry’s leading educators and trainers, died Tuesday from heart failure while in Honolulu. He was 64. White was in Honolulu attending the Society for Vector Ecology 2022 International Congress.
White’s more than 40 years in the pest control industry were mostly spent educating others, whether it was in various technical positions or speaking at industry conferences such as NPMA PestWorld or the Purdue Pest Management Conference.
White was a graduate student at Purdue University where he developed a special bond with Dr. Gary Bennett, retired professor and director of the Center for Urban and Industrial Pest Management at Purdue. The two were lifelong colleagues and friends who would go on outdoor adventures together. Bennett told PCT that Gene was “a special person who was unusually knowledgeable and more than willing to share his knowledge and experience with all who would listen. There is truly a part of me missing with the loss of Gene.”
Another industry professional impacted by White from his days at Purdue is Bobby Corrigan. The two would occasionally teach pesticide certification seminars together, which required them to travel together all week from one city to another. These were long drives that included sharing meals and hotel rooms. Corrigan recalled, “It is those trips that linger for me the most and are among my most treasured memories of Gene. Those times were typically filled with his contagious laughter because Gene loved to tell funny stories and to laugh. Over the years, I grew to learn that it gave Gene true pleasure to bring joy to other people’s days by making them smile and getting them to laugh.”
A native of the Akron, Ohio, area, White attended Glenville State College (W. Va.), where he graduated with a major in biology and minor in oral communications and was a member of the football team. He eventually found his way to Rose Pest Solutions, Troy, Mich., where he was hired to be a trainer. Among his accomplishments at Rose were helping to create an employee hiring template for technicians and the development and fine-tuning of training programs based on insect identification, which then led to the choice of products and treatment protocols.
At Rose Pest Solutons, White worked alongside Mark “Shep” Sheperdigian, vice president of technical services, Rose Pest Solutions, who said he and White “meshed quite well in our abilities and interests.” The outgoing personalities shared a love of theater, which they tapped into to create radio clips and training videos, Sheperdigian recalled.
Sheperdigian said White was someone people naturally gravitated to. “He was always smiling, he was universally friendly and larger than life,” Sheperdigian said. “He was just a big happy guy and that attracted people.”
In 2013, White joined Rentokil North America, where he was hired as technical director for the Central Market, which spanned from Mexico to Canada. Four years later he was hired for the newly created position of global director of vector management for Rentokil-Initial, with responsibilities for creating and improving on the vector management space in the company.
Another reason White was so admired by colleagues was his infectious enthusiasm for entomology. He is remembered for his fun, interactive training sessions which extended into the community. For example, he led the outreach program “The Culinary Bugstitute,” which was part of the Cleveland Metroparks “Bug City” program for 23 years. He would spend a week creating a variety of insect dishes at his home in Michigan and then transport them to Cleveland (a 3-hour trip). In his 2018 Leadership profile, White recalled, “It was an absolute blast. I just had so much fun doing it and I think my enthusiasm helped, and I enjoyed coming up with new recipes. It was a great event to help promote the science of entomology.”
Dale Baker, vice president of sales J.T. Eaton and Pi Chi Omega member. said at his core White “was motivated to be of service. He loved to help people. He loved to educate people. He loved to talk to people. He loved to listen to people. He loved to learn from people. He loved people.”
Gene is survived by wife Janet and his children (Kyle and Karey) as well as Janet’s children (Chris, Kelly and Ryan). He was preceded in death by daughter Kelsey. Ceremony and memorial information were not available at this time.
PCT will update this article as more information becomes available and will be adding additional remembrances.