Sterling O. Mattoon

Honorary Degrees


California State University, Chico​

Sterling O. Mattoon is a natural scientist and lifelong learner with an insatiable curiosity and unrelenting passion for discovery. For more than 50 years, he has devoted his life to the research of butterflies and their diminishing habitats in the Northern California region and beyond.

Growing up in the small, rural town of Los Molinos during the Great Depression, Mr. Mattoon began collecting butterflies in grammar school, pinning them into empty cigar boxes. After high school, he sought a degree in industrial arts at Chico State College before the Korean War drew him away. He served in the U.S. Air Force, performing airplane maintenance and collecting butterflies when off duty. After his military service, Mr. Mattoon returned to Chico State College and changed his major to biological sciences. He graduated in 1960 and was later hired as an agricultural biologist with the Butte County Agricultural Commissioner’s office, where he would work for the next 32 years.

Mr. Mattoon shared his passion for butterflies with his wife, Eileen, who often accompanied him on field trips. During their decades together, the Mattoons discovered numerous butterflies that had no prior scientific record. This resulted in butterflies being named after them by fellow members of the Entomological Society of America, of which Mr. Mattoon is a member. Two butterflies of note are euphydryas editha mattooni, a type of checkerspot butterfly, and speyeria cybele eileenae, a type of fritillary butterfly.

Mr. Mattoon is a recognized expert in the fields of butterfly extinction, the effects of climate change on butterflies and nuances between species. He has contributed to the research, documentation and writing of 20 articles in a comprehensive text titled "Systematics of Western North American Butterflies." He also has contributed to various entomology collections and holds an extensive private collection of more than 50,000 butterflies. He plans to gift the collection to the McGuire Center for Biodiversity at the University of Florida, which houses the largest Lepidoptera collection in the world.

Through his personal and professional achievements, Mr. Mattoon has a legacy that is both admirable and inspirational. In recognition of his extraordinary curiosity, dedication and scientific research that have contributed so significantly to the greater knowledge of butterflies and moths, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Chico are proud to confer upon Mr. Sterling O. Mattoon the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.