WMU News

Campaign gets $550,000 boost from Monroe-Brown Foundation

Nov. 22, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University's $125-million centennial campaign, Partnering for Success, is receiving a $550,000 boost from the Monroe-Brown Foundation of Kalamazoo.

The gift will support three areas of study and research at WMU. The College of Arts and Sciences will receive a total of $350,000 for student research in the life sciences and for the new master of science in molecular biotechnology program, which utilizes high throughput screening techniques. In the College of Fine Arts, the School of Music's programs in music performance and the new building project for the Department of Art will each receive $100,000.

"The gift is consistent with the foundation's longstanding emphasis on support for quality education," says foundation trustee Robert Monroe Brown. "Over the past five years, we have been focusing particularly on educational programs which will have direct benefit to regional economic development.

"We have long recognized the importance of the arts at WMU as a valuable community asset, which contributes to the desirability of the Kalamazoo area as a place to locate new businesses. The expansion of life sciences research programs has obvious implications in attracting new biomedical and pharmaceutical jobs," says Brown.

Some of the past major gifts to WMU from the Monroe-Brown Foundation have supported the new nursing program in the College of Health and Human Services, a new sound recording studio for the School of Music and construction of Schneider Hall, home of the Haworth College of Business.

"The Monroe-Brown Foundation is most enlightened in its generosity and balanced investment in higher education," says Margaret Merrion, dean of the College of Fine Arts. "I am particularly pleased that the foundation has invested in the new art facility."

About one-half of the projected $16 million needed for the new art building has been raised, with 13 months remaining in WMU's capital campaign. The art building will be located between the Dalton Center and the parking ramp at Miller Auditorium, with pedestrian overpasses connecting all three structures.

For the College of Arts and Sciences, the Monroe-Brown gift will lead to increased student research opportunities and support for an innovative new graduate degree program.

"Undergraduate and graduate student research is a top priority for the College of Arts and Sciences," says Dean Elise B. Jorgens. "The support of foundations like Monroe-Brown is critical to our ability to fund that priority. The foundation's contribution to the molecular biotechnology master's program is helping establish WMU as a leader in the life sciences and already has contributed to the growth and development of the College of Arts and Sciences' activities in the University's Business Technology and Research Park."

WMU's new master of science degree in molecular biotechnology, the only program of its kind in the country, combines the disciplines of chemistry, biological sciences and statistics to train students in high throughput screening techniques. HTS techniques, which draw upon concepts and methods from molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, bioinformatics, robotics, and computer science, are used by pharmaceutical and biotech companies to rapidly screen large numbers of compounds for their potential commercial use. HTS is replacing traditional methods of research discovery that involve synthesizing molecules one at a time. The current demand for professionals trained in HTS methods is greater than the number of qualified individuals available to fill those positions, and the WMU program was launched with the support of such pharmaceutical firms as Pfizer, Pharmacia Corp. and Eli Lilly.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thomas.myers@wmich.edu

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