It seems like almost everyone in the pest control industry knows and respects Dr. Austin Frishman. After 40 years in the business, he says he’s on a first-name basis with an estimated 3,000 people.
He is constantly in demand as a speaker and industry expert, and has appeared on national television programs discussing pests and professional pest management. His goal in these appearances — to get others to understand the importance of professional pest management.
He continues to consult with leading industry firms, riding with new technicians and teaching them the practical side of the business.
Despite this busy schedule, Frishman also saves time to enjoy research, writing and working with his wife and business partner Barbara.
Although Frishman has been planning a ‘semi-retirement’ since he sold his sanitation inspection business seven years ago, his schedule is jam-packed with projects far beyond an ordinary workload. He still travels widely and is a popular and fascinating speaker.
“I used to travel about 125,000 miles every year but now I’m cutting that down to only about 75,000 miles in 2002,” he jokes.
His loyalty and dedication to sharing knowledge are remarkable. For example, he’s traveled to Minnesota’s annual winter Pest Control Conference for more than 30 years and was recently named to that event’s Hall of Fame.
He continues to consult with companies ranging from one to hundreds of employees as part of his business, AMF Pest Management Services, Boca Raton, FL, and takes real joy in sharing his knowledge with others. He does all this with characteristic modesty and genuine good humor.
When told he was named to Pest Control’s Hall of Fame, Frishman was stunned.
“I’m so honored,” he noted. “There are so many others who deserve this.”
The People Connection
Frishman’s role as an inspiration for many in the industry began when he was a young child of only three years, who became fascinated with insects. He is described as having an almost “boyish enthusiasm” for his work, which continues to affect those around him.
His early life growing up on a chicken farm fed his interest in livestock entomology. He was encouraged by his family and teachers to study entomology at Cornell University, and that was when he started working as a summer technician for Al Hochman, who owned Clover Exterminators in Monticello, NY.
His interest in insect biology became a passion when he saw the effects on public health that pests caused and knew he could help people through his work.
Hochman took Frishman under his wing, introducing him to the professional side of the industry at a pest control conference in 1960 at Rutgers University. This helped him realize his career options and Frishman soon earned a master’s degree at Cornell. Due to the persistent interest and encouragement of Dr. John Osmun at Purdue University, Frishman and his young family moved to West Lafayette, IN, so he could pursue a doctorate.
It was there that Frishman met and became influenced by the strong tradition of research and teaching at Purdue, and there he came to know industry pioneers like J.J. Davis.
Even though he left Purdue in 1967 to head the structural pest control curriculum at the State University of New York in Farmingdale, Frishman became a dedicated participant for the Purdue Conference, a role he continues today.
Frishman’s love of teaching blossomed in this time and he became a major influence in the lives of many practicing pest management professionals, teachers and experts working today.
He continues to stay in close touch with many of his former students, saying, “I don’t think more than two days go by today without speaking with one of my former students. It’s like a big, extended family.”
He stayed at Farmingdale until 1979, then left to devote more time to his business, which did sanitation inspections at commercial and institutional sites. That business eventually was sold seven years ago but he still consults, teaches, researches, writes and speaks.
He says he couldn’t do it without the help of his best friend, wife Barbara, who helps him run the business. They have a growing family: daughter Marcy is married to Ian and they have two sons; son Allen is married to Katia.
Ongoing Research Projects
Frishman’s ongoing interest in research and product development has been fruitful over the years. One of his major developments includes work on cockroach bait in the early 1980s.
The bait project was the first that got cockroaches to eat a toxicant, he recalls. Another contribution he is proud of was his work with Southern Mill Creek Products of Florida in 1971, he says, where he helped make glue boards easier for PMPs to use.
Frishman continues to test new products and perform research, such as the project that linked roaches with the spread of disease.
The product research is interesting but sometimes has unforeseen results for the manufacturer, he says. “For every product that tests well, there could be 30 that are not so good.”
Getting the bad news from Frishman can be a setback, he points out. “Not everyone wants to give me a product to test.”
One project that currently has him excited is the Pi Chi Omega link with the Heifer Project, which provides domestic animals to help people become self sufficient in economically depressed areas of the world. He is helping raise funds and coordinate with other groups like the World Wildlife Fund to provide honeybees for a rural area of Mexico.
Frishman is justifiably proud of helping so many people learn, achieve and reach their career goals in the field of pest management.
He spends much of his time developing teaching aids or conducting on-site training for fledgling technicians. He has written for Pest Control magazine for more than seven years.
“I’m always impressed that so many of these technicians have a tremendous desire to learn. Some of them are pretty bright and they have such enthusiasm! I had a chance to do what they couldn’t, so I really enjoy helping them,” he says.
Frishman sees a bright future for the industry because demand will always be there. His focus is not on the economy, however, but on the people and companies that make up the industry.
“The more progressive companies will still keep growing and those that are not as progressive will just ride out the economic storms,” he says. “But it’s the ethical companies — those who know how to treat their people and their customers — who will always come out on top.”
Frishman will continue to educate and inspire new technicians, speak at conferences and share his knowledge in a number of ways, because it’s his passion.
“If a technician is really interested in being educated, I’ll tell him or her to shoot for the stars. Our industry needs educated people.”