John Allen Witter of Ann Arbor, professor emeritus of entomology, died unexpectedly at home on Aug. 4. He was 76.

John Allen Witter
John Allen Witter

He was the happiest, most enthusiastic and most optimistic person you could ever meet, and he had often said that these recent years, despite health challenges, were the absolute happiest time of his entire life.

Witter was born Sept. 2, 1943, in Jamestown, New York, to Charles and Edna Mae (Ferguson) Witter. He was raised in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his sisters, Gladys and Mildred, where he played Little League baseball and other sports.

He was active in University Baptist Church youth group and choir, was manager for the  Lane High School football team, participated in Boy Scouts and rose to the level of Eagle Scout. He also sold Christmas trees for many years for the Kiwanis Club.

After graduating from high school in 1961, Witter attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in forest management in 1965 and a master’s degree in entomology in 1967. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1971, with a major in entomology and a minor in forestry.

Witter joined the faculty of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources in 1972 as an assistant professor of forest entomology. He was promoted to associate professor in 1976, and professor of entomology and forest dynamics in 1984. From 2000-10, Witter held the George Willis Pack Professorship in Forest Entomology. Witter retired in 2011.

During his 39 years at U-M, he was active as a researcher and teacher. He co-authored a textbook, “Forest Entomology: Ecology and Management,” and authored and co-authored hundreds of journal articles, technical reports, handbooks, video productions, and other materials.

He collaborated extensively with the U.S. Forest Service and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, as well as with colleagues at Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University, where he was an adjunct professor of forestry. 

His research interests revolved around a variety of forest insects and other forest health disturbances in rural and urban forests, such as tent caterpillar, spruce budworm, gypsy moth, beech bark disease, and air pollution.

He served on numerous steering and advisory committees and technical panels, and was a regional trainer for the forest health monitoring/forest inventory and analysis programs of the Forest Service for many years. He taught for many years at Camp Filibert Roth in Iron County in the Upper Peninsula, and later at the U-M Biological Station in Pellston, Michigan.

Witter was an avid reader, especially books on sports, history and nature, and a dedicated fan of college football and basketball. He particularly enjoyed U-M men’s basketball, for which he was a season ticket holder since 1972 and rarely missed a home game.

Witter is survived by his beloved wife and devoted caregiver, Jennifer Stoyenoff; his daughter, Leslie Witter; his sisters, Gladys (Jim) Wiley and Mildred (Melvin) Spicer; his niece and nephews, Mary Wiley, Joe (Yudy) Wiley and Paul (Stuart) Spicer; his great-nieces and great-nephew, Hope and David Wiley and Carson Spicer; his lifelong friend, who was like a brother, Edward “Tuck” (Marionette) Jones; and Leslie’s mother, Nancy Witter.

Submitted by the Witter family