Enns earned acclaim for MU museum

Sunday, November 9, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:28 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

Dr. Wilbur R. Enns had a passion for insects.

Enns, a professor emeritus of entomology at MU, was a world authority on mites and blister beetles and focused most of his research on these two groups of invertebrates. Dr. Enns also worked extensively with insect systematics and insect taxonomy, the classification of insects.

“He was probably one of the few all-around entomologists; he excelled in many areas of various disciplines,” former colleague and neighbor Ben Puttler said.

Dr. Enns died Thursday, Nov. 7, 2003, at Lenoir Health Care Center. He was 90.

He was born Feb. 26, 1913, in Henderson, Neb., to Cornelius and Elizabeth Enns. He married Nola Lee Wright in 1946 in Sedalia. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army where he was stationed in the Philippines and New Guinea.

Dr. Enns held degrees from MU and the University of Kansas. He served as the chairman of the department of entomology at MU in 1968 and was the director of the Entomology Museum from 1953 to 1978. The museum was officially named the Enns Entomology Museum in his honor in 1980.

“He was an excellent colleague and an outstanding entomologist,” former colleague Robert Chippendale said. “He was very knowledgeable about a whole range of insects, which is very difficult to do.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Enns wrote a number of articles that appeared in several entomological journals. In 1978, he received the Award of Merit from the North Central Branch of the Entomological Society of America for his research and teaching.

“Students came in with a great respect for him, and he was good to his students,” Puttler said. “He was genuinely interested in their success.”

Among university museums, Dr. Enns helped make the MU museum one of the pre-eminent entomology museums in the country.

“He made tremendous strides in developing the museum and enhancing the holdings and prestige of the museum,” said Robert Sites, current director of the museum.

After his retirement in 1978, Dr. Enns kept a desk in the entomology department and continued his research for several years.

“He was continually dedicated to his profession, even after he retired,” Chippendale said. “For him it was a lifelong commitment.”

Dr. Enns is survived by his daughter, Suzy Frechette of St. Louis.

His wife, two brothers and five sisters died earlier.

Private services and burial are today at Memorial Cemetery.

Memorials can be sent to the Wilbur R. Enns Entomology Museum Endowment, 2-4 Agriculture Building, University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo. 65211.

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