The gift that will keep on giving: A $2.3 million donation announced Tuesday is largest in WOU history

Statesman Journal
By Justin Much

DeVolder $2.3 million gift
Kevin Chiba works on an experiment during a health related chemistry lab at Western Oregon University on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2001. The Monmouth school received commitments is excess of $2.3 million from the Ron and Norma DeVolder and the Lynn Roberts Ramsdell Irrevocable Trust. This is the largest gift in the school’s history. In honor of the gift, the new science center that will be built will be named the DeVolder Family Science Center. Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez, Statesman Journal

A gift to Western Oregon University of $2.3  million — the largest financial gift in the school’s history — ultimately will expand  the capacity for studies in science.It also is said to be critical for the school as it strives to remain on target with its master-plan vision.

WOU announced Tuesday that the Ron and Norma DeVolder and the Lynn Roberts Ramsdell Irrevocable Trust committed
more than $2.3 million to the school. A portion of that gift will be used in conjunction with state-arranged funds to construct a state-of-the-art science facility. The other part of the gift will go to scholarships and other initiatives.

“In honor of these contributions the university’s new science laboratory building will be named the DeVolder Family Science Center,” WOU President Mark Weiss said. “This marks the family’s latest commitment and investment in Western Oregon University; their continued generosity reflects Ron’s leadership on the Western Oregon University Foundation Board.”

Ron DeVolder studied biology at Oregon College of Education (now WOU), graduating in 1968.

“It (the gift) revolves around the students and the leadership at Western,” Ron

DeVolder said, describing the school as a “nugget” that has proven itself on a national stage.”When I was there the labs were really tiny, though a lot has changed,” he said. “I think they have a fairly well-defined student
need, because students need the tools to succeed … this need makes sense.”The Oregon State Legislature approved a budget of $9.7 million for the new science facility, which will be funded through a
combination of Oregon Lottery bonds and private contributions.The site for the building would be west of the new Health and Wellness Center.

WOU geology professor Steve Taylor, chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, said plans tentatively call
for a three-story, 21,0000-square-foot building with six labs, office and research space. He said chemistry, anatomy and
physiology would move to the new facility; biology and earth sciences would remain in the current building.

A potential second phase eventually could expand the building and move all sciences into one building.WOU Director of University Advancement Tommy Love said about $1 million of the DeVolder gift will go toward the center,
while the rest will go toward scholarships and other initiatives on campus.”This is just a wonderful commitment on behalf of the DeVolder family, and it comes at a time when it could not be more
critical,” Love said.Love cited decreased state revenue availability and growing science programs at WOU as challenges before the school’s
long-term growth.

He said the university still must secure about $1 million additional funding through grants and gifts for the facility, and it has
an aggressive timeline for the building.

Initial plans will address potential parking issues, but the site’s proximity to the campus’s current Natural Sciences Building
(at the corner of Jackson Street and Monmouth Avenue) was a significant factor in determining the site’s feasibility.

“If we can secure the funding for this facility and wrap up some things, our goal is to break ground in 2012 and have classes
ready (in the building) for the fall of 2013,” Love said. “That’s a compressed timeline.”

 WOU officials underscored the critical nature of the facility, noting that about 70 percent of its students are housed within its
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Between those majoring in the natural sciences and the courses required for the
Liberal Arts Core Curriculum to earn a bachelor’s degree, more than 3,500 students take science classes annually.The school’s consistent growth, coupled with the additions of the Oregon Health Sciences University nursing program and a
gerontology program, serve to increase the load, thereby heightening the need. Recent years have seen student credit hours in
biology and chemistry curricula increase 43 and 79 percent respectively.”The whole sciences division will benefit from this,” Taylor said.”The increased instructional space and modernized facilities gained by the project will greatly contribute to the quality of
student learning and academic preparation at WOU,” he added. “This project is in direct alignment with workforce training

needs in the state of Oregon and will provide increased capacity to accommodate the growing numbers of science-related students arriving on campus each year.”503-769-6338 or follow at twitter.com/justinmuch

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