6 July 2023

M. Lee Goff

Entomologist also contributed to forensic pathology

M. Lee Goff

By Koon-Hui Wang and Robert E. Paull

Lee died Friday, May 26, at his home in Kaneʻohe, due to complications from surgery and his ongoing battle with melanoma. He was born in Glendale, California, in January 1944. His career started with a BS in Zoology from UH Mānoa in 1966, two years in the army, then an MS in Biology from California State University, Long Beachn in 1974 and a PhD from UH Mānoa in Entomology.

Before being hired into the Entomology department in 1983, Lee had worked at Bishop Museum, Kaiser Hospital in Harbor City, California, and IBP at Volcanoes National Park. He moved up the faculty ranks from 1983 to 2001, when he retired and was granted Emeritus status. In retirement from CTAHR, he accepted a position as Professor of Forensic Sciences and Director of Forensic Sciences Program, Chaminade University of Honolulu (CUH), which he developed into a recognized program. He retired from Chaminade in 2013. While as a faculty member in CTAHR and CUH, he taught General Entomology (UHM, CUH), World of Insects (UHM), Systematic Entomology (UHM), Forensic Entomology (UHM & CUH), and Medical/Veterinary Ento. (UHM) Immature Insects (UHM), and Acarology (UHM), Entomology Seminar (UHM), attesting to the breadth and depth of his training.

Lee received numerous awards: American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Pathology/Biology Section Research Award for contributions to forensic pathology and legal medicine, 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1992. Distinguished Science Educator, Hawaiʻi Academy of Sciences, 2005. University of Bari Medal for contributions to forensic entomology, 2006. Fr. John Bolin Excellence in Scholarship Award, Chaminade University of Honolulu, 2007. Pathology/Biology Section Award for Achievement in Forensic Biological Sciences, 2008. 

Lee served on editorial boards of several journals (Bulletin of the Society of Vector Ecologists, International Journal of Acarology, International Journal of Biology and Medicine, Systematic and Applied Acarology, FORENSICA). His service activity included the following: Acarological Society of America (Governing Board 1982-1985, 1997-2001; President 1991), American Academy of Forensic Sciences (Fellow 1993; Secretary, Pathology/Biology Section 1995-1996; Chair, Pathology/Biology Section 1996-1997), American Board of Forensic Entomology 1996-2012 (Chair, Board of Directors 1996-1999; Chair, Executive Committee 2006-2008), American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, Mid-Pacific Association of Forensic Scientists (Executive Board 1991-96), National Association of Medical Examiners Affiliate member, Sociedad Espanola de Criminologia y Ciencias Forenses Honorary Member, North American Association of Forensic Entomologists, Delta Delta Epsilon, Forensic Sciences Honor Society.

In addition to his more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and books, Lee is best remembered for his best-selling book: Goff, M.L. 2000. A Fly for the Prosecution. Harvard University Press, which has been translated into Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. The book focused on the use of insects to determine time of death of bodies and his affiliation with the Department of the Medical Examiner, City & County of Honolulu as a consultant in forensic entomology. In this capacity, he was in demand for training workshops on the Recovery, Examination, and Evidence of Decomposed and Skeletonized Bodies from 1989 through 2008 for the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He was not recommended as an after-dinner speaker for those with queasy stomachs. He also was involved in the CSI TV series in which crime scenes involved insects. In addition to CSI, Lee worked as an insect wrangler for television and movies including Magnum P.I. (the original series) and Baywatch: Hawaiʻi. He also made commercials in Japan. 

Lee had many friends and colleagues throughout the College, the University and State of Hawaiʻi, and at the National and International venues. He will walk beside us every day, unseen, unheard but always near, still loved and missed.

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