About 140 Wittenberg students major in biology and another 10 have a biology minor.
“This incredible gift to the university will transform the lives of our current and future biology students so that they can transform their world and their community,” Welch said.
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Students will be able to complete paid research projects over the summer without having to get a job, he said.
“The research project will be their job, so they can save money for the next academic year and contribute to their professional development all at the same time,” Welch said.
Without paid fellowships, only the students who can afford not to work can perform research projects, he said.
“This is an incredibly valuable thing for them,” Welch said.
Powelson was one of only a handful of women in the country teaching in science when she joined Wittenberg’s faculty in 1957 as a biology professor. She taught at the Springfield university for 44 years and was the 14th winner of the university’s Medal of Honor.
“She was an excellent teacher and a life-changing mentor, which we see reflected even now in her devoted former students,” Welch said.
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In 1966, Powelson helped construct a new science building at Wittenberg, which included labs used by professors to conduct research projects with their students.
“This is the legacy Betty has left us,” Welch said.
In 2004, three years after her retirement, an endowed chair — a faculty position which is paid for through a privately funded endowment — was created in her name, which has generated more than $350,000 in donations from Powelson’s students and friends.
Former Wittenberg Biology Chair Tim Lewis and his wife, Ruth, also a former administrator in the department, serve as the trustees of Powelson’s estate. Lewis worked with Powelson and said she had a passion for her students.
“In every way, it’s meant to help students,” Lewis said. “It’s the kind of gift that can changes lives. Long after people forget who Betty Powelson was, they’ll still have their lives changed by her.”
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Last fall, a former student donated $2.6 million from her estate to Wittenberg, the largest gift ever for the music program at the school.
Lois Hagelberger Huebner, who died at the age of 107, donated that money to be used for scholarships for music students.
Wittenberg University wouldn’t continue to thrive without support from private donors, Interim President Dick Helton said.
“We’ve been very, very grateful over the years for the support and contribution we’ve received,” he said. “It’s important to our students, faculty and staff.”
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The Springfield News-Sun has provided in-depth coverage of Wittenberg University, including its presidential search and its growth into one of the top business schools. Wittenberg has a $70 million impact on the community.
By the numbers
$2.3 million: Amount of money left to the Wittenberg University biology department by former professor Betty Powelson.
140: Students who major in biology at Wittenberg University.
44: Years taught at Wittenberg by Powelson.