Wilber (Bill) Mayhew 1920-2014

In September we lost the last of the co-founders for the UC Natural Reserve System (NRS), Wilbur (Bill) W. Mayhew.  Professor Mayhew, along with Mildred Mathias and Kenneth Norris, possessed the incredible foresight and enthusiasm necessary to convince the UC Regents to form the Natural Land and Water Reserve System (as the NRS was then known) in 1965.  These professors were true visionaries and leaders in the protection of California’s unique ecosystems.  In the face of high real estate values and the burgeoning urbanization of natural areas, they actively pursued acquisition of important natural areas throughout the state for the sole purpose of preserving lands for teaching and research.  Today the NRS has 39 reserves and encompasses over 750,000 acres of unique habitat.  In particular, Bill Mayhew was responsible for acquiring 16 reserves, served as faculty  manager for Boyd Deep Canyon for over 25 years, and was the Campus Director for all UC Riverside NRS reserves (including the GMDRC) for 36 years.  

Bill Mayhew was also a founding faculty member at UC Riverside in the Department of Zoology.  Over the course of his career he touched the lives of literally thousands of students, brought nature to their finger tips, and instilled a sense of appreciation for the natural world.  In fact, he started bringing his Terrestrial Vertebrates class to the Granite Mountains as early as the 1950’s, and this class is considered the longest standing class to use this reserve (it has since been taught by Marlene Zuk, John Rotenberry, and now Christopher Clark).  Mayhew was apparently a stalwart field biologist, full of natural history facts and life-changing opportunities for young minds.  He was also known for his uncanny, yet noteworthy, sayings while in the field, familiarly called “Mayhewisms”.  A few of our favorites are below.

Along with Bob and Ken Norris, he played a significant role in the development of the Granite Mountains Desert Research Center in 1978, for which we will always be grateful. Bill Mayhew will always hold a very special place in the heart of the NRS.

An oral history interview is available online.  Obituaries for Wilbur Mayhew can be found here: UCR TodayUCNRS

Just a few (of hundreds!) Mayhewisms:

“Noose ’em and goose ’em!”  (refers to catching lizards and taking rectal temperatures)
“Here I am dingledorkin’ around.”
“We’re beatin’ the hell out of nature, but remember that nature bats last.”
“Optimists believe that we’re living in the best possible world.  Pessimists fear this is so.”
“We’re off like a herd of turtles!”
“Big as life and twice as natural.”
“Nothin’s stoppin’ you but fear and good sense.”
“Some of us have it, some have to send off for it.”
“Excuse me while I do some osmo-regulating.”
“Be prepared to have your teeth sharpened!”  (in reference to blowing sand)
“I have a hitch in my get-along.”
“That’il larn ya, darn ya!”
“Ain’t Nature wunnerful”
“That’s a catastrostrope!”  (calamity)
“Crazy as a coot.”
“How are you?  I’m finer than frog hair.”
“I told him how the rabbit ate the carrot!”  (told him off)
“You are just in time to be too late.”
“I have never before seen so many things I can do without.”