A $2.7 million dollar gift to Earlham College will establish endowed funds that benefit students and faculty in the natural sciences.
This major gift will support both an endowed chair in biology for ornithology, totaling about $2.6 million, and general scholarships that support students pursuing degrees in the natural sciences, totaling about $100,000.
The Martha Sykes Hansen Endowed Chair in Biology for Ornithology is the result of last year’s $2.7 million sale of a historic Indiana farm that was donated to Martha Hansen and her brother, Edward Sykes.
“Endowed chairs are critical for retaining the highest-quality faculty and attracting the best and brightest students to campus,” says Greg Mahler, vice president of academic affairs and academic dean at Earlham. “This gift can also have a transformative effect on our students’ experiences as they prepare for what’s next.”
This endowed chair will support associate professor of biology Wendy Tori’s research interests in bird ecology, behavior, genetics and evolution. Her recent research with students has taken her to the American Midwest, the Amazon Rainforest, and in the molecular genetics lab, specifically studying different species of birds and turtles.
Earlham already has endowed chairs in astronomy and physics, mathematics, peace studies, English, and the humanities.
Ornithology, the scientific study of birds, is both a popular field of academic study at Earlham College and a hobby among students of other majors. Birding Big Day, an annual fundraiser for the college, features alumni from around the world who go birding, where they record the number of species they see and make donations to Earlham based on their counts. Many alumni even begin their celebration of homecoming with an early morning bird walk led by Earlham faculty.
The estate gift is the second gift of farmland that Earlham has received in as many years. In November 2015, a donation from Ivan Druley and Pauline Kniese Druley resulted in a nearly $2 million gift that funded renovations to Earlham’s athletics and wellness center.