Southern President Mary A. Papazian today announced the largest donation to the university in its 120-year history – a $3 million gift that promises to boost scientific research for students and faculty.
Papazian said the Woodbridge-based Werth Family Foundation will make the donation in increments during the next 10 years. It is nearly triple the size of the previous largest donation to SCSU.
The contribution will include a $1.5 million endowment for SCSU’s Center for Coastal and Marine Studies – a center that is being renamed in the family’s honor. An additional $750,000 ($75,000 each year) will be donated to the center for its annual expenses, such as equipment and for stipends to students to support their research efforts.
“In recent years, Southern has seen impressive programmatic and enrollment growth in the sciences, and this wonderful gift will take scientific research and experiential opportunities for our students to a whole new level,” Papazian said.
“We are extremely grateful to the Werth Family Foundation for its support of the university and its commitment to public higher education.”
The remaining funds of the $3 million gift have been earmarked for two new initiatives that combine science education and real-world/business experience — through seminars, internships, and research opportunities — with stipends provided to participating Southern students and area science teachers.
“Above all, we are trying to make a difference,” said Peter Werth, who established the family foundation with his wife, Pam, in 2000. “We’ve had the opportunity to look at the research done at the center and its importance to the community. We’re believers.”
The foundation has contributed nearly $380,000 to the center since 2006, including more than $50,000 a year over the last few years.
In recent years, about 60 Southern students have worked with faculty on environmental research through the center. Projects in which they have engaged include measuring mercury and other contaminants in state harbors, exploring ways to combat beach erosion after hurricanes and determining the age of lobsters.
The entrepreneurial couple founded ChemWerth, an international generic drug development and supply company, in 1982.
“Southern is accessible and offers students the opportunity to receive a great education,” said Pam Werth, who was raised in Bridgeport and believes in supporting urban education initiatives. “I know this is a school that makes a difference in people’s lives.”
“This is truly a transformational gift,” said Vincent Breslin, professor of science education and environmental studies, and co-coordinator of the Werth Center, along with James Tait, professor of science education and environmental studies, and Sean Grace, associate professor of biology. “It makes the center sustainable, allows us to plan future programs of research and lets students know that support for their work will be there over the long-term.”
“In this highly competitive job market, it’s not what you know but what you can do with what you know that matters,” Breslin said. “This gift enables us to provide hands-on experience to students, who will be out in the field and in the lab conducting research with state-of-the-art instrumentation. As a result, our students are much more competitive in the job market.”
In addition to the center, the gift will fund the Industry Academic Fellowship Program, which will enable students to work with middle school and high school science teachers, as well as SCSU faculty and industry mentors, to focus on professional development and interdisciplinary research. The program will include fellowships for the students and teachers.
The gift also will fund the Southern Summer Science Business Institute, which will enable students majoring in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to learn about the business aspects of science. Participants will receive $5,000 stipends, which will allow them to focus on their education rather than seeking summer employment. The program will include seminars, as well as internships with science-based businesses in the area.