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Marjorie Ann Hoy
In Memoriam

Marjorie Ann Hoy

Professor of Entomology, Emerita

UC Berkeley
Marjorie Hoy was a pioneer and world expert in molecular genetics and its applications to biological control for insects. Her laboratory was the first to deploy a laboratory-modified natural enemy in a pest management program. Her book, Insect Molecular Genetics, now in its 4th edition, is considered a classic. This book was groundbreaking in its scope, covering DNA, gene structure, transcription, translation, and genome evolution. The latest edition also included updates on CRISPR-CAS as it relates to arthropods and a discussion of regulatory and ethical issues. The writing style of the book was crafted to appeal to a wide audience of entomologists, cooperative extension agents, regulatory officials, pest control advisors, and graduate students in entomology.

Marjorie Hoy’s career was one of many “firsts”:

1973-1974: First female Ph.D. entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station

1974-1976: First female Ph.D. entomologist at the U.S. Forest Service, Northeast Forest Experiment Station

1976-1992: First female faculty member, Department of Entomology, UC Berkeley

Hoy’s publication list is lengthy, with more than 350 scientific papers and 53 book chapters and books. Her work is frequently cited, by some estimates as many as 12,000 times (Google Scholar). The arthropods most cited in her publications were mites, especially species in the family Phytoseiidae. Her pioneering research featured genetic improvements of phytoseiids used as predatory mites in agro-ecosystems for biological control.

Marjorie Hoy was born in Kansas City on May 19, 1941. She attended the University of Kansas, where she received her B.A. in 1963. She obtained her M.S. (1966) and Ph.D. (1972) degrees in the former Department of Entomology, UC Berkeley. The time to completion of her Ph.D. was phenomenal, 1.5 years—a record!  After leaving briefly for a position in Connecticut, she returned to Berkeley as an assistant professor in the entomology in 1976. She achieved the rank of full professor a record six years later. In 1992, she was awarded Emeritus Professor status at UC Berkeley and accepted the Davies, Fischer and Eckes Endowed Chair in Biological Control at the University of Florida.

Marjorie Hoy continued her illustrious career while at the University of Florida. Her research included classical biological control of citrus pests, as well as the development and use of molecular tools to improve biological control agents in agriculture. She was a prolific author during this time, while also being active in research and teaching. Her courses included graduate level Agricultural Acarology and Insect Molecular Genetics and an undergraduate honors course in Bioterrorism. She was a knowledgeable and dynamic instructor, as well as an advocate for increasing women and other underrepresented students in STEM and academic hires in entomology. Her advice still rings true today: “You can do it; you have to want to do it. You have to get up and love to go to work in the morning… You’re going to be a problem solver.”

Marjorie was always striving to learn more, and she expected the same of her students, staff, and postdoctoral fellows. Her love of science was contagious. She also devoted much of her time to training her students in writing, public speaking, presentation, and problem-solving skills. More than one Ph.D. student experienced Marjorie’s “thorough” editorial corrections.

Hoy strongly encouraged her students and postdocs to have a basic understanding of the importance of insect molecular genetic tools in integrated pest management (IPM) systems, even if they were not going to be molecular biologists. She had high expectations of her students and postdocs, so compliments and approvals from her were truly meaningful. She was a dedicated mentor to students and to many who were not her students or were no longer students. Her lessons reached beyond entomology. Much of her philosophical approach to achieving excellency is recorded by Marlin E. Rice in “Marjorie A. Hoy: Undaunted Pioneer, Eminent Scholar” American Entomologist. Volume 65 (3), 2019, pp 158–163,

Hoy was a pragmatic problem solver. This is apparent from the very beginning of her career when she focused on the development of pesticide-tolerant biological control agents to improve their survival in integrated pest management systems. She was also a strong advocate for classical biological control but understood that working for farmers required acknowledging the practicalities of the agricultural environment while she worked to move practices in a more sustainable direction.

During her long and productive career, Marjorie was advisor and mentor to 12 M.S. and 15 Ph.D. students, as well as 20 postdoctoral fellows; many of these went on to successful careers. Dr. Hoy also received many special recognitions and awards: they include the Entomological Society of America (ESA) Bussart Award (1986); Fellow, AAAS (1990); Fellow, Royal Entomological Society of London (1990); Fellow, Rockefeller Foundation (1990); ESA Founders Memorial Award (1992); ESA Fellow (1996); Sigma Xi Senior Faculty Research Award, University of Florida (1996); Honor Award for Outstanding Research in Biological Control, U. S. Department of Agriculture (1997); National Agri-Marketing Award in Agricultural Excellence (1998); Distinguished Scientist Award, International Organization for Biological Control (2004); and Borlaug CAST Communication Award (formerly Charles A. Black Award) (2004). 

Hoy’s university and professional service was also exceptional and included her membership on the Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Committee (ACAB), convened by the  Secretary of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture (2000-2002). Other committee participation and service included the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Biological Threats to Agricultural Plants and Animals (2001-2002) whose report provided a review of the status of U.S. agriculture's ability to deter, detect, and respond to bioterrorism directed against it.

Marjorie was kind and thoughtful. On occasion, when daycare or babysitters could not be found, she would welcome children of students to sit in on lab meetings and would provide markers and paper to keep them busy. She was quick to laugh and tolerated some pretty loud music in the lab.  

Starting in 2019, Marjorie and her loving husband Dr. James Hoy spent summers in Georgetown, Colorado to be near their son and his family. There, Marjorie enjoyed planting lilacs in the yard, painting the dining room, and photographing bighorn sheep. Marjorie had always been an avid reader. Her greatest joy was time spent reading to her granddaughter. Marjorie Hoy died on June 20, 2020, in Denver, Colorado. She is survived by her husband, Dr. James Hoy; son, Benjamin; and granddaughter, Maya.

Vernard R. Lewis
Denise L. Johanowicz
Faith M. Oi
James K. Presnail