A $30 million gift, the largest in the University of Mary Washington’s 115-year history, will help the Fredericksburg institution grow its undergraduate research program and create four new full scholarships for out-of-state students.
The estate of the late scientist Irene Piscopo Rodgers, a 1959 alumna, provided the funding. Rodgers died last summer at the age of 89.
The money, in part, will fund research in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, Earth and environmental sciences, computer science, and math, said Troy Paino, president of the university. Students will be able to explore their research interests during the regular academic year, as well as through the university’s Summer Science Institute.
Rodgers, who earned her chemistry degree at what was then known as Maryland Washington College of the University of Virginia, went on to get her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.
According to her obituary, Rodgers became a chemist and microscopist at the American Cyanamid Co. and then an electron microscopist at Philips Electronic Instruments. After her marriage in 1969, she spent four decades as an independent consultant to FEI, a provider of electron and ion-beam microscopes and tools for nanoscale applications.
Rodgers, over the years, acknowledged that the university opened worlds for her. “As the daughter of immigrants, and personally aware of the challenges and inequalities women often faced in establishing scientific careers, Irene developed a passion for encouraging and supporting young women to pursue careers in the sciences,” her obituary said.
The University of Mary Washington said Rodgers began her donations to her alma mater with $50 in 1980. She would go on to donate an electron microscope to Mary Washington and train faculty and students to use it. She also named a microscopy lab and several Alvey Scholarships after her late parents, Justin and Helen Piscopo.
According to the university, “To date, 85 students have earned awards through Rodgers’ generosity, including 15 Alvey Scholarship recipients and 28 research fellowships, funded by Rodgers. Seven students received other scholarships and 35 students received scientific presentation grants for conference travel, also established by Rodgers.”
Overall, her donations totaled nearly $39 million.
“Everyone who knew Irene knows how much she loved Mary Washington and helping our students pursue opportunities to conduct research,” said University of Mary Washington Vice President for Advancement Katie Turcotte.
The latest gift will help create four new Alvey Scholarships that the university said will provide full tuition, fees, and room and board for out-of-state undergraduate students for up to four years.
“This gift will be transformational for UMW, establishing us as one of the premier institutions in Virginia, indeed in the country, for undergraduate STEM research,” said Provost Tim O’Donnell said. “The mentored experiences the University will be able to offer will be unparalleled. I don’t know of another institution, regardless of size or mission, with such a focused investment.”
Feature image courtesy University of Mary Washington
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