Dr. Dennis Kopp (1943-2020), retired from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), was elected ESA Fellow in 2010. He is nationally and internationally recognized for his 43-year career of public service and leadership of State and Federal research, education and extension programs, and his enthusiastic encouragement of entomologists and youth education programs featuring entomology.
He was born August 4, 1943. in Dubuque, Iowa, and grew up enjoying hunting, fishing, scouting, and farm work. While living at home and working at a series of part-time jobs, he attended Loras College, receiving his B.S. degree in Biology in 1965. Kopp taught high school (1966–68) until entering graduate school in entomology at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Working full time as a research technician, his academic program and research focus was on the systematics and taxonomy of Membracidae, completing his M.S. (1972) and Ph.D. (1977).
In 1978, Kopp was hired as an assistant professor and extension entomologist at North Dakota State University (NDSU), earning the rank of professor in 1988. For 13 years, his extension work engaged constituents throughout the state, addressing entomological issues related to crops, livestock, and the home/garden. In 1990, he accepted the position of entomologist and national program leader with the USDA Cooperative Extension Service in Washington, DC. In 1996, he became plant section leader for the Cooperative States Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES), which in 2008 became NIFA.
Kopp’s faculty responsibilities at NDSU involved insect identification, systematics, ecology, and pest management during a time of grower and private sector engagement with new federal and state programs intended to improve agricultural production. His work at NDSU allowed him to develop an understanding and appreciation of the Land Grant University mission and to value its engagement with an ever-evolving agricultural sector. Early on, Kopp discovered that the value of creating networks with the right mixture of academic, government, and public sector life scientists, and linking them with public resources, would result in finding practical solutions to difficult pest management issues. His Federal program leadership involved multi-state research, partnering state-based scientific expertise with public sector resources to deliver research, education, and extension programing that provided environmentally sound pest management solutions.
Kopp’s service to ESA and the Entomological Foundation involved committee and leadership roles on the Journal of Economic Entomology Editorial Board, Publications Council, Systematics Resource Committee, North Central Branch Nominations Committee, Governing Board, Presidential Special Committees, and Finance Committee. He has been a donor, supporter, and counselor of the Entomological Foundation, believing the study of insects can help youth discover that the life sciences can be an exciting and rewarding career choice.
Kopp and wife Leta each had three children from previous marriages. Their children are grown, gainfully employed, and following exciting careers across the country. He enjoyed biking, outdoor activities, and volunteering two days a week curating Heteroptera in the U.S. National Insect Collection at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Kopp passed away December 11, 2020, at the age of 77.
(updated December 2020)