Purdue ‘bug man’ to retire

Purdue entomology professor Tom Turpin (right) appears on WISH-TV's "Indy Style" with Tracy Forner (from left) and Andi Houser in August 2011 from the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis. (Provided Photo/Purdue University)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A Purdue University entomology professor is retiring after a 45-year career full of wiggly worms and creepy crawlers.

Tom Turpin, known to many as “the bug man,” will retire from the Department of Entomology on July 1. Turpin leaves behind his legacy of cockroach spitting and insect-themed apparel, along with being a favorite among Purdue students.

“Well, I think the fact that I’ve been here 45 years tells you we really have enjoyed it,” said Turpin. “I think as teacher, if somebody learns something and they tell you, ‘I didn’t know that,’ then you have been successful.”

He would frequently bring along his bugs and creatures for school presentations and guest lectures. According to Turpin, 85 percent of the U.S. population would say they are afraid of insects. That’s why he founded the popular general entomology elective, ENTM 105, a course that teaches many insects are friends.

“People basically don’t like insects because of their attitudes and because insects do some bad things to us,” said Turpin. “They sting us and bite us so most people are negative about insects. Typically, any fear – whether it be of heights or of any animal – can be overcome if you know a little more about what you’re fearing.”

While at Purdue, Turpin also established Bug Bowl – the world’s largest insect-themed festival. It takes place every spring and is known for its cricket-spitting competition and cockroach races. Turpin says while he won’t miss giving out grades, he will miss what the students brought to the classroom every day.

“I will miss the interaction with students,” said Turpin. “Students keep you young. They are so enthusiastic about things that we do.

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