Dennis Randall Ring was born August 6, 1952 in Texarkana, Arkansas to Billy JD and Billie M. Ring. Dennis is survived by his wife, Sherry, daughter, Megan De Wees and her husband Dalton, sons, Randall Ring and Paul Ring; and by his brother, David Ring, and wife Karen, and nephews, Tim and Matthew and 5 grandnieces and grandnephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Billy JD Ring and Billie M. Ring, brother, Carey Ring, and niece, Patricia Ring.
Dennis grew up in Grand Prairie, Texas where he spent many hours playing with his younger brothers, David and Carey, in the city park across from their home. This is where Dennis first became interested in insects. One has to wonder if it came from the fun he had batting at bumblebees with a broomstick. Dennis told of many outdoor adventures, which included preventing his youngest brother, Carey, from standing on an undercut creek bank that could collapse any minute; walking through a field of Russian thistles that stabbed through a pair of blue jeans like they weren’t even there; and the three brothers pointing their dog, Blackie, the wrong direction and racing him downhill to the house. Blackie always won.
Dennis also developed an interest in dinosaurs and a college geology class opened his eyes to many ancient life forms and to fossil and mineral collecting, a pastime he would share with his children, along with insect collecting.
Dennis and his brothers also went on several hunting trips with their dad. He told stories of riding in a boat at night with the adults shooting several water moccasins to keep them from entering the boat; of getting up before dawn and sitting in a frozen tree motionless for hours waiting for a deer that would never show; and losing his shoes, stepping on numerous blackberry vines and seeing a black panther while following his dad, who was lost and desperately trying to get out of the woods as the sun was setting, only to be saved by the whistle of a passing train.
Dennis attended a small Baptist Church where his dad, a railroad engineer, was a pastor on Sundays. From this upbringing, Dennis grew to have strong faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and passed that faith on to his family. However, he also anxiously waited for the sermon to end so they could race home to watch the Dallas Cowboys – he was a life-long fan from the time Dallas got an NFL team in 1959. He also followed other Dallas area professional sports franchises and predicted several negative records set by the Texas Rangers, including allowing a team trailing by 8 runs with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to bat a round and beat the Rangers. Dennis came from a family of life-long Baylor Bears fans and he stayed committed to the football team even through many losing seasons.
Dennis graduated from Grand Prairie High School, Grand Prairie, Texas, in 1970. While in high school, Dennis’ interest in insects grew during study hall where he would gaze at colored photos of butterflies from around the world. He attended Grand Canyon College and University of Texas at Arlington before transferring to Baylor University. He worked his way through school, as a grocery store clerk in high school, and in a lumber mill during summer break from college. While working many hard, hot hours at the lumber mill, Dennis decided to attend school until he achieved the highest degree possible, rather than take on such a hazardous career.
He graduated from Baylor University with a B.S. Degree in Biology in 1974. By then, Dennis knew that he liked biology, but was not fond of anatomy. He was accepted into graduate school by the Entomology Department at Texas A&M University. The pecan weevil was causing problems in central Texas pecan orchards, and he received a phone call from Dr. Marvin Harris who needed a student to do experiments on the pecan weevil in an orchard setting. Dennis spent the fall of 1974 living in the small community of Hamilton, Texas. Dennis began graduate school at Texas A&M University in the spring of 1975, a semester behind his classmates, and graduated with a Master of Science degree in 1978 in entomology and a minor in horticulture. He stayed on, and completed with Ph.D. in 1981 in entomology and minors in Statistics and Ecology; where he developed the first computer model of the behavior of the pecan nut casebearer, which became the basis for current models. Pecan producers still use this model saving them more than $20 million in overhead costs and damage avoidance to date. Growers have also found value beyond money: this model minimized guesswork and many said the greatest value to them was “peace of mind”—Dennis may have been unaware of that high praise. His other work at the Pecan Insect Lab at TAMU greatly aided the development and delivery of the first Pecan IPM strategy to manage pecan arthropods. This formed a basis for Pecan IPM to engage with other scientists and bring science to agriculture across the Pecan Belt right up to the present.
Dennis held several post-doctoral positions after receiving his Ph.D. He worked in the screw worm lab in Mission, Texas and Chiapas, Mexico; then he worked at the USDA pecan research station in Byron Georgia, the sugarcane entomology lab in the Texas A&M Research station at Weslaco, Texas, and the cotton insects research lab at the Texas A&M Research station in Corpus Christ, Texas. In 1995, he found his true calling when he was hired by the Agricultural Center at Louisiana State University in the position of extension entomologist. He spent 25 years as a highly productive and respected Professor and Extension Entomologist with the Department of Entomology. His breadth of knowledge of insects, and his enthusiasm for sharing that knowledge, were unparalleled. Over his career, Dennis had extension responsibilities for pests of structures and households, pecans, rice, sweet potatoes, small fruits, stored products, fruit trees, vegetables, ornamentals, turf, and other commodities. However, the pest that he spent the most time combatting was the Formosan subterranean termite. Dennis was the coordinator of the Lois Caffey Termite Training Center, served on the Governor’s Formosan subterranean termite task force, and spearheaded Operation Full Stop, a USDA-funded program to reduce the impact of Formosan subterranean termites in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Dennis published over 75 scientific papers and a great many technical and non-technical articles, and received more than $9 million in grant funding. He gave over 1000 talks on entomology-related subjects in his career, and frequently lectured on pest management and applied statistics to graduate students in the LSU Department of Entomology. Dennis was an Entomological Society of America Board Certified Professional Entomologist. Among the professional awards received by Dennis were the Distinguished Achievement Award in Extension, Southeastern Branch, Entomological Society of America (2005), and Distinguished Service Award to the Certification Board, Southeastern Branch, Entomological Society of America (2017). Dennis loved his job with the Department of Entomology in the LSU AgCenter and developed many friendships within the AgCenter system. He spent as many hours as he could to take as many commitments as possible, often helping with statistical design and analysis. At home, he spent many evening hours answering emails and talking on the phone to colleagues and clients. He had many stories to tell about his interactions with people and his efforts to educate people on entomology. His knowledge of science extended especially from insects, geology, dinosaurs, botany, and statistics, to others. The sports atmosphere at LSU was exciting and he fell in love with LSU football. Though seriously ill, he enjoyed watching the 2020 NFL Draft for the results of the Cowboys and where LSU and Baylor players landed.
Denis also found time to attend Jackson Hewitt to learn to do his taxes, and became friends with and enjoyed working with the many colleagues he had there during tax season – another example of how his life was dedicated to the service of others.
During the years he found time be a family man. While at Baylor, Dennis met his wife, Sherry. They were married on March 13, 1976 while attending Texas A&M. Dennis and Sherry would go on to raise 3 children together. His 3 kids loved him and the insect and fossil collecting and other outdoor adventures he brought their way. Potential fossil collecting sites were researched online and trips were taken with varying success, but were always a family bonding experience. Insects were collected with sweep nets and blacklights at all times of the year and different environments, with most of the insects ending up in the freezer. Dennis was interested in every plant you can name and enjoyed bringing home a variety of plants to his wife Sherry for her garden. He tried his hand, mostly unsuccessfully, at grafting pecans. He was looking forward to retiring on the family farm in Bastrop, Texas and continuing his interest in insects, fossils, and plants.