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Mr. Mosquito

His entomology expertise impacts the world

A U.S. Navy medical entomologist, Captain Stan Cope ’76 managed all aspects of mosquito control and pest management for the U.S. Department of Defense—much to his surprise.

“Growing up, I never thought bugs were cool, and I never, ever thought I would join the military,” he laughs. “But I studied entomology because I loved those classes, and I joined the Navy because I thought I looked good in the uniform. I owe my career to serendipity—and I’m not done yet.”

Formerly president of the American Mosquito Control Association and director of entomology and regulatory services for Terminix International, Cope is now vice president of technical products and services for the pest-control giant AP&G.

It was a long journey from Swarthmore and concerns that he wouldn’t live up to his father, Stan Cope ’42, or brother, Taylor Cope ’69, a pair of Garnet athletic superstars turned medical doctors. He needn’t have worried: His freshman year, Cope pitched a baseball no-hitter; during his Ph.D. studies at UCLA, he identified an unrecognized mosquito species responsible for a San Diego malaria outbreak.

“Walking back to the lab with my bound dissertation, I never felt the ground under my feet,” he says. “If that wasn’t the happiest moment of my life, it was pretty damn close.”

Strolling through the Ville today near Vicky’s Place—and his filmmaker daughter Kemmer Cope ’17’s old apartment—Cope jokes about the through line of his career: “I’m the guy who says, ‘We need to improve.’”

It’s still true: Whether he’s actively recruiting and personally mentoring a diverse younger generation of pest-control professionals or creating a special program to help military veterans enter (and succeed in) the field, Cope sees opportunities to grow.

“I’m starting to educate the entire private industry that there’s a lot more to mosquitoes than mosquito control,” he says. “Soaking backyards with poison isn’t the best approach, especially since the threat of mosquito-borne illness—Zika, West Nile, Mayaro—is bigger than ever.”

After all, he adds, this minuscule insect with a massive global impact—Earth’s deadliest animal!—deserves a modicum of respect as one of nature’s great creations.

“I usually spend more time studying how mosquitoes live than how they die.” He winks. “Just don’t tell anybody.”