In true Spartan fashion, the extraordinary individuals and groups that comprise the MSU College of Natural Science (NatSci) family – faculty members, staff members, students and alumni – are hard at work every day, making a difference in their classrooms, labs, businesses, communities and the world around them. In an effort to tell their stories, we've created this collection of profiles to feature people in our NatSci family and how they are contributing to the common good in ways both big and small. SPARTANS WILL.
Completing his Ph.D. in chemistry at MSU in 1963, David Taft embarked on distinguished career in the specialty chemical industry that spanned nearly five decades. In appreciation for the indepth graduate education he received at MSU, Taft and his wife, Sara, funded an endowment to support graduate fellowships in organic chemistry.
Thomas Taylor (M.S., geology, 79; Ph.D., geology, ’82) remembers how much he benefitted from visiting professors when he was in graduate school. So Taylor and his wife, Margo Sackheim, decided to establish the Thomas R. Taylor and Margo Sackheim Geological Sciences Lecture Endowment to give current students that same chance to exchange ideas with experts.
Laurie Thorp credits her father with instilling in her a passion for gardening and a deep love of the land and nature, and has combined this love with her commitment to undergraduate education at MSU and the importance of experiential learning for student development. Her husband, Joe, also firmly believes in the value of the land grant mission and its transformative impact on students and the world. This commitment and belief has compelled the couple to make a gift in support of undergraduate education.
Marquita Tillotson came to MSU 2011 with the goal to work hard in her classes and make herself marketable to employers. This 2014 zoology graduate credits her success in this endeavor to the academic and financial support she received, noting that such support is critical to career success in today’s job market.
Living on the shores of Gull Lake in Richland, Mich., Chris Tracy (B.A., James Madison College/political theory, ’90) and his family can look across the water and practically see how their contributions to Michigan State University are making a difference. The Tracy family lives across the lake from the Kellogg Biological Station, which they support with both money and time.
Just one day into retirement, Daniel (Dan) Van Haften found himself knee-deep in research at his local library on an unusual topic. He wanted to decode how an ancient Greek mathematical text had influenced Abraham Lincoln.
Four published books and 10 years later, what Van Haften undertook that day became a second career. Now, it is shaping an endowed professorship in deductive literacy at MSU, which Van Haften recently established with a $1 million gift to the MSU College of Natural Science’s Department of Mathematics.
While our lives can often be driven by American ideas of time, with little room for patience and a well-defined sense of purpose, Lucas Werner’s research experience in MSU NatSci microbiologist Yan DuFour’s lab has transformed his thinking and attitude around this ethos. Over the past few years, his research journey has taught him to slow down in his daily life, to be more critical in his analysis and to appreciate the process.
Since he was a kid, Kristian knew that he wanted to obtain a college education. As he grew older and it was time to apply for schools, Kristian knew he wanted to stay in Michigan, but was conflicted between attending the University of Michigan (where several of his family members had gone) or Michigan State, which also caught his attention. Accepted to both, the opportunity to do research as a freshman and automatically be admitted to the Honors College is what made Kristian “Go Green!”
Roger Wolthuis (M.S., physiology, ’65; Ph.D., physiology, ’68) knew he wanted to be in a medical profession but just wasn’t sure what would be the best fit for him -- medical school or a related discipline. A cold call from a MSU physiology professor who studied cardiovascular physiology and was looking for a grad student to help him sounded interesting, so he enrolled at MSU to do his master’s degree. The decision proved to be a winner.
About 50 years ago, MSU Professor Peter A. Schroeder had a profound impact on a particular graduate student. Now, he wants to pay it forward to students who are following in his footsteps. John Woollam (M.S., physics, '63; Ph.D., solid state physics, '67), a George Holmes Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, established the Peter A. Schroeder Physics Fellowship Fund to honor Schroeder and to help students build their careers.