Tifton Grapevine - Local News, Views & Previews


Dr. W. Joe Lewis, a retired scientist from the University of Georgia, Tifton Campus, was recently honored as a Distinguished Fellow by the Mississippi State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, where he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. 

The award was presented during a ceremony March 7 at the MSU campus. Lewis was chosen for the special accolade by the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology. The Distinguished Fellows program recognizes outstanding alumni and exposes current students and faculty to individuals reflecting qualities and traits MSU seeks to instill in students.   

Lewis came from humble beginnings as a sharecropper’s son in south Mississippi and would earn a Ph.D. degree by age 24. From 1967 until his retirement in 2006, he was a research entomologist in the USDA, ARS, in Tifton – with joint faculty appointments with the University of Georgia and University of Florida.  

He is recognized worldwide for major discoveries in the science of pest management. The models for his studies have been behavioral and chemical interactions of parasitoids, insect herbivores and plants, along with ecosystem principles.

The impact of his research is evidenced by more than 200 referenced scientific publications and book chapters, including five papers in journals of Nature and Science, and three in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and an invitational paper in Scientific American. His work has been highlighted in the press, including CNN Science and Technology, BBC/Discovery Channel, Business Week, National Public Radio, BBC Wildlife, Fortune Magazine and NBC-TV's Today Show.

Capstoned by the 2008 world-renowned Wolf Prize in Agriculture, personally presented in Jerusalem by Israeli President Shimon Peres, Lewis’s numerous honors and awards include the prestigious Founder's Memorial Lecturer Award by the Entomological Society of America; Honorary Visiting Professor, University of California, Berkeley; the E.T. York Distinguished Lecturer, Auburn University; the C.P. Alexander Distinguished Lecturer, University of Massachusetts; named U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service Outstanding Scientist of the Year; received special congressional recognition for Outstanding Achievement, Service and Public Distinction; decorated internationally by the Jean-Marie Delwart Foundation Award and Prize (conferred in Brussels, in conjunction with the Royal Academy of Sciences of Belgium); and an Invitational Fellowship for Research by the Japan Society for Promotion of Science. 

As part of UGA’s centennial celebration, he was selected as one of 12 scientists whose work has impacted the world during the past 100 years.

Lewis also has been active in the local community including: Vice mayor and member of the Tifton City Council for 16 years (1996-2012); member/chairman, Tift County Board of Elections and Registration,1974-1996; member, Greater Tiftarea Planning and Zoning Commission, 1987-1994; member/vice-chairman, Tifton Downtown Development Authority, 1998-2012; member, Rotary Club of Tifton (Paul Harris Fellow), 1991-present; member, Suwannee/Satilla Regional Water Planning Council, Governor’s State Water Plan, 2008-present.
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