There is a story behind every gift to York University, and a couple of recent gifts-in-kind
to YU's Science Department, worth a total of about $100,000, reflect a mini-series
of most interesting stories.
York University has recently received a "used" mass spectrometer, valued at minimally $60,000, from SCIEX, a biotechnology company that provides assistance to scientists and laboratory analysts on complex analytical challenges.
The SCIEX gift was facilitated by YU alumnus Paul Brown (AA '90, BA '96), who installs and repairs mass spectrometers for different companies and educational institutions in Nebraska and Iowa, and Paul's daughter, Riley, a senior biology major with a minor in chemistry, who plans to apply to medical school upon graduation from YU. While Paul, a senior field services engineer for SCIEX, held employee status with the company, it was Riley who encouraged the YU Science Department faculty, specifically Dr. Josephine (Josie) Schamp, assistant professor of chemistry, to follow up with a request to SCIEX for a mass spectrometer.
The Paul Brown family resides in Lincoln, but Paul's roots are in York, where his parents, Mike and Marilyn Brown, have been part of the York College family. Marilyn was a 1958 alumnus, and Mike worked for several years in the '70s, '80s and '90s as a maintenance and custodial specialist.
"The Brown family has long been a part of the support base of York College, now York University," Dr. Bryan Kretz, head of the YU Science Department, said. "The mass spectrometer will allow students to learn more hands-on analytical techniques and identify chemical structures; determine purity/identity of samples that they have chemically synthesized in laboratory settings; and test unknown samples for identification."
To be sure, not only did Marilyn attend York College, but so did her mother, Ethel Hallmark Scott, from Albion, NE, the hometown of longtime YC president Dale Larsen. Ethel's father, Albert, was the longtime minister of the Albion Church of Christ in the early part of the 20th century.
Kretz added that this gift makes York University one of only a few NAIA schools to possess a mass spectrometer. "Knowing how to use this technique and instrumentation can be beneficial to students going into fields such as graduate studies in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, medical fields, laboratory settings, FDA/DEA, engineering, plant science, etc. This also enhances our ability for students to not just learn how to process the data and information but hands-on work in utilizing the instrumentation from start to finish and preparing samples, process and completing the laboratory procedure in full.”
The gift from Green Plains York of numerous pieces of science laboratory equipment, such as microscopes, lab utensils, etc., stemmed from relationships formed between Dr. Kretz, assistant professor of biology, and two top employees of Green Plains York--Peter Drake, a microbiologist, and Dhawal Dhone, a chemical engineer and plant manager at the research-based ethanol plant in York.
"Basically, they had extra equipment sitting around in storage and asked if we could use it," Kretz explained. "The answer was a no-brainer."
Kretz also noted that the Green Plains company would not "give away" the valuable equipment, but would be willing to sell it to York University for a total of $1. "That was another no-brainer," Kretz added. "If we had to pay fair-market value for those pieces of equipment, the cost would have been between $20,000 and $30,000.
"Peter Drake and Dhawal Dhonda (nicknamed "DD") actually made this gift happen, on behalf of Green Plains York," Kretz said. "We had met through several professional and civic situations and discovered we had numerous mutual, academic and professional interests. They wanted their leftover equipment to be useful somewhere, and they were kind and generous to consider York University as a beneficiary of this unique gift-in-kind.
"I would love to have more, similar $1 sale offers," he concluded.
Dr. Schamp also shared excitement about the two gifts-in-kind: "I look forward to the expanded opportunities we can offer students to better prepare them for their scientific careers. Having first-hand experience with this instrumentation will help them stand out in their future endeavors. These donations will help set the new standards of excellence in the academics that York University provides."
Dr. Sam Smith, president of York University, weighed in, "This equipment is going to be vital as we move into being York University. As a department, our science faculty will be able to provide many opportunities for our students to develop skills that they will need in the field of science. We are so very thankful for our alumni and local businesses in supporting us in such unique ways."