Professor Emeritus David Kistner, who taught biological sciences for 33 years, passed away March 10. He was 89.
Born July 30, 1931, he earned his undergraduate degrees at the University of Chicago, as well as his PhD. He was hired at Chico State in 1959, where he taught general entomology, agricultural entomology, and medical entomology, and relished creating research opportunities for students.
Throughout his career and in retirement, he was beloved by students and highly respected by his colleagues.
“Dr. Kistner was a tremendously kind and generous human. Taking entomology with him my senior year profoundly affected the way that I looked at and appreciated the living things in the natural world around me,” said alumna Katie Eckert Rainwater (Biological Sciences, ’96). “It would not be an overstatement to say that it changed my life and path forward. He continued to be so supportive and encouraging to me after graduation as well.”
During his career, he was named Outstanding Professor at Chico State twice and earned the systemwide honor in 1976. In addition to his teaching and taxonomic research, he authorized and co-authored over 200 scientific papers, consulted for the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and conducted field research for Dow Chemical’s termite abatement traps. He also founded and was the editor of the scientific journal Sociobiology, which was believed to be the only scientific journal sponsored within the California State University at the time. Kistner also served as chair of the All-University Tenure and Promotion Committee and Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences.
“It was clear to me and all others in our department that he was an outstanding scientist, scholar, and teacher. He was a consummate entomologist whose achievements were recognized locally, nationally, and internationally,” said Professor Michael Abruzzo, who worked with Kistner for more than 30 years. “He was an excellent teacher who excited and stimulated his students in the classroom and in the field. Simply, he was the perfect example of a teacher-scholar.”
He was a recognized authority on the systematics of foreign organisms in social colonies of insects, and a fellow with the Explorers Club of New York, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and the California Academy of Sciences. He was also a member of the Entomological Society of America and the Society of Sigma Xi.
Kistner had a lifetime fascination with insects, and he and his family made extensive collecting trips to the tropics in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America, funded in part by 15 National Science Foundation grants and support from private foundations. He ultimately collected, systematized, and named over 357 insect genera and species. He was also an avid butterfly collector, and the creator of Chico State’s Entomology Collection, which today spans over 25,000 specimens.
He retired in 1992 but remained passionate about his field, conducting flying insect surveys and vernal pool surveys for various agencies. Kistner was inducted to the Emeritus and Retired Faculty and Staff Association’s Hall of Honor in 2011.
He is survived by his brother, Dick Kistner, sister Anita Nitsche, daughters Alzada Magdalena and Kymry Kistner, grandchildren Kai and Alzada Roche, and longtime friend and caregiver Esmeralda Dominguez and her family.