Former MSU president Gordon Guyer dies at 89

The Detroit News

Gordon Guyer, a longtime faculty member at Michigan State University who served as interim president in the early 1990s, died Wednesday at age 89, the university announced Thursday.

Mr. Guyer was MSU’s interim leader in 1992-93, serving during a time of controversy over the search for a successor to John DiBiaggio, who had resigned to become president of Tufts University.

The board of trustees sparked accusations of racism and sexism on campus by passing over two finalists, Purdue University engineering dean Henry Yang and interim provost Lou Anna Simon, before hiring banker M. Peter McPherson as the school’s 19th president.

During Mr. Guyer’s tenure as MSU’s 18th president, the school also took a turn in the national political spotlight, hosting the Oct. 19, 1992, presidential debate among then-President George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and H. Ross Perot.

Besides his long service at MSU, Mr. Guyer worked in state government, serving as director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for two years in the mid-1980s and as director of the Department of Agriculture in the 1990s.

Mr. Guyer was born in Kalamazoo on May 30, 1926, and graduated from Augusta-Galesburg High School, according to his MSU biography. He served in the air corps and then enrolled at MSU under the G.I. Bill in 1947.

Mr. Guyer studied fisheries and wildlife but later switched to entomology and received his bachelor’s degree in 1950. He also earned master’s and doctoral degrees in entomology and became an MSU faculty member in 1953, according to the MSU biography.

Mr. Guyer wrote more than 70 papers on such topics as aquatic ecology, insect control technology and global agriculture.

Mr. Guyer was a professor in and chairman of the entomology department and the director of MSU’s former Pesticide Research Center, an institute he helped to establish. He also was director of MSU Extension from 1973-85.

Simon, who has been MSU president since McPherson stepped down in 2004, praised Guyer’s research work and administrative skills.

“Gordon Guyer was one of those people who, whenever there was an important position to fill, was always on the list,” Simon said in a statement. “He was known and respected in every corner of the state through his MSU Extension work, and for his knowledge and his advocacy for Michigan State. He had an enormous capacity to connect with people and to rally support for good ideas.”

Mr. Guyer’s first wife, Norma Lake Guyer, died in 2001. He is survived by his second wife, Mary Gettel Guyer.