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October 20, 2005

UMBC to Dedicate Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Chemistry Building

Oct. 21 Ceremony Honors Innovative Philanthropy That Made UMBC National Leader in Science Diversity, Excellence

Contact: Mike Lurie

To understand fully how dramatically Robert and Jane Meyerhoff have changed the face of American science, just consider the numbers.

In 2003, the most recent year for which data are available, only 306 Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields were awarded to African-Americans nationwide.

The philanthropists established the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program at UMBC in 1988 to address the under-representation of African American men in the sciences and engineering. Since then the Program has produced nearly 600 graduates who are minorities or dedicated to advancing representation of minorities in the sciences. Program graduates go on in large numbers to the country's most prestigious graduate and professional schools, placing UMBC among the top predominantly white institutions nationally producing minority bachelor's degree recipients who go on to earn Ph.D.s in STEM fields.

The Oct. 21 event will honor the Meyerhoffs’ pivotal commitment and generosity by renaming the University’s newly renovated chemistry and biochemistry facility as the Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Chemistry Building.

“Almost two decades ago, Robert Meyerhoff and his late wife, Jane, began to quite literally change the face of science in America,” said UMBC President Freeman A. Hrabowski, III. “It is only fitting that we name in their honor a building where the next generation of chemists and biochemists will train.”

The Meyerhoff Program’s impact is already clear as early graduates begin their careers at top institutions and companies:

  • In 2000, Chester Hedgepeth, (UMBC biological sciences ’93, Parkside High School, Salisbury, MD) became the first African American M.D./Ph.D. to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. He is now a Fellow in Cardiovascular Medicine at the Harvard Medical School-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

  • Adam Freeman (chemistry ‘95, Springbrook High School, Silver Spring, MD) received his Ph.D. from University of California-Berkeley in 2003 and is now a Senior Research Scientist at Eastman Kodak.

  • Melanie Smith (biological sciences ‘95, Western High School, Baltimore) was the first African-American M.D./Ph.D. at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and is now in residency at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

  • Crystal Watkins (UMBC biological sciences ’95, Dulaney High School, Baltimore) received her M.D./Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and is now a Research Fellow and Resident Physician in the Departments of Neuroscience, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences there.

The Meyerhoffs’ initial $500,000 gift that created the Program in 1988 was at the time the University’s largest private gift ever, and carved the path for future philanthropic support. Since then, the Meyerhoffs have continued their commitment to UMBC by building an endowment of nearly $8 million to support the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program, as well as serving as honorary co-chairs of The Campaign for UMBC.

The Chemistry building’s renovations will benefit all UMBC chemistry and biochemistry students and faculty. “The renovations provide an outstanding environment for the collaborative approach to teaching, learning and research,” said Ralph Pollack, chair and professor of UMBC’s chemistry and biochemistry department. “In addition to the state-of-the-art labs and instruments, we’re especially pleased that the building design encourages communication, mentoring, and shared research.”

The event celebrates the full renovation of the building’s interior and the Meyerhoffs' contributions to the University with a ribbon cutting, plaque dedication and reception.
Several members of the Meyerhoff family will join current and former Meyerhoff Scholars, chemistry and biochemistry faculty, students, alumni and staff along with supporters and friends of the University for the 2 p.m. event.


Robert and Jane Meyerhoff:
The Meyerhoffs embarked on a partnership of philanthropy in 1945, creating a national legacy that spans the arts and sciences. Born in 1924, the Meyerhoffs matured during the Great Depression and World War II as members of a generation that believed in giving back to community and country. The Baltimore natives have brought passion and dedication to their varied roles as real estate developer, thoroughbred horse breeders, art collectors, and advocates for education.

After serving in the war, Robert Meyerhoff, a civil engineer and graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, returned home to join the family construction business. He later left to establish Hendersen-Webb, a construction and property management company known for creating communities focused on quality and value. During this period, he and Mrs. Meyerhoff, a graduate of Goucher College, began to build the couple’s outstanding collection of post-World War II art, which they have donated “to the nation” as a gift to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

While the Meyerhoffs’ contributions to education are many, perhaps the most significant is the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at UMBC, created in 1988. What began as an initiative to address the under-representation of African-American men in the sciences and engineering has evolved into a diverse program that now includes men and women from a range of backgrounds who share a dedication to advancing minorities in the sciences. The program has received national acclaim for producing an outstanding number of high-achieving minority students in science and engineering and inspiring them to attain advanced degrees at the nation’s most prestigious graduate and professional schools. The couple’s deep personal interest and pride in the Meyerhoff Scholars have added a nurturing element that strengthens the experience.

The Meyerhoff Scholarship Program at UMBC:

Undergraduate students accepted into the program have exceptional retention rates (95%) and GPAs (3.4) and are broadly distributed in scientific fields. Meyerhoff students have impressive research-related internships each year in laboratories throughout the U.S. and abroad; nearly all have presented research at professional conferences, and a number have published in top scientific journals as undergraduates. The program has nearly 600 graduates, almost all currently enrolled in Ph.D., M.D., or M.D./Ph.D. programs across the country (e.g., at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Cornell, Hopkins, Penn, Virginia, Rice). Currently, there are just over 200 undergraduates in the Meyerhoff Program at UMBC.

UMBC Chemistry & Biochemistry/ Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Chemistry Building

In recent years, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology ranked UMBC first nationally in the total number of undergraduate chemistry and biochemistry degrees awarded to African Americans; second in the total number of undergraduate degrees in chemistry and biochemistry awarded to minorities; and third in chemistry and biochemistry master's degrees awarded to minority students.

The building renovations include: state-of-the-art teaching labs and instrumentation, a new mass spectrometry facility, a laser laboratory and a suite of nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers. The building design encourages communication, mentoring, and shared research through flexible, interconnected labs; clustered faculty offices; a tutorial center; space for small discussion and problem solving groups and a bridge connecting students and faculty with life sciences colleagues in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Posted by crose at October 20, 2005 10:13 AM