No matter the era of attendance, every OWU student has a favorite professor – or two or three. Professors help connect students to their life’s passion and lead to new ways of thinking. But with one-third of our current professors approaching retirement age in the next decade, the need to attract new talent and retain our existing faculty is vital to our shared future. Whether through endowed chairs that elevate professors and secure their positions in the OWU tradition, or through paid time off to pursue professional projects, campaign gifts help to ensure that OWU students learn from the very best.

(From left) President Rock Jones with Margaret “Peggy” Wright DuPont ’61 and Herbert DuPont ’61, along with the holder of their newly endowed professorship, David Markwardt, associate professor of zoology, and Markwardt’s wife, Rachel Dwyer, at the formal installation dinner for the position in April.

To hear him tell it, Herbert “Bert” DuPont ’61, an expert in the field of infectious diseases and holder of the Mary Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Medical Science at the University of Texas School of Public Health, barely made it through Ohio Wesleyan.

“I almost flunked out of the school; it was very close whether I was going to make it the second year. But the school stuck with me. I figured it out, I went on, and I’m appreciative of that,” he says.

He met Margaret “Peggy” Wright DuPont ’61 at OWU, and is appreciative of that, too.

For the DuPonts, philanthropy and giving thanks to the place that has meant so much in their lives was never a question. They established a scholarship in 1990 in honor of Peggy’s parents, both of whom also attended OWU, as did both her grandfathers.

For their recent campaign gift, they began with a simple idea: “We believe in people,” Bert says.

“We wanted to identify bright faculty who could have major impact on tomorrow’s leaders.”

They created the Herbert L. and Margaret E. DuPont Endowed Professorship in Biological Sciences with their campaign gift to realize that goal.

“We wanted to do all our gifting while we can enjoy it, we can see it, we can feel it,” Bert DuPont says, noting another benefit: “And we have tax advantages while we’re still working.”

They visited campus in April 2017 to participate in the formal program in which David Markwardt, associate professor of zoology, was named to their endowed professorship. Markwardt, who joined the OWU faculty in 2003, called it an honor for him and for the University. “I know (the DuPonts’) professors would be so proud to see them giving back. Maybe someday I’ll be able to look at students who are giving back in the same way and think I had some small part of that,” he says.

40 Years Later: Hundreds Honor Benjamin Spencer

Portrait of Benjamin Spencer.

Benjamin T. Spencer was arguably Ohio Wesleyan University’s most beloved and respected professor at the time of his retirement in 1969, after teaching Shakespeare and American literature at OWU for 39 years. Spencer, who died in 1996 at the age of 92, was the first OWU professor to have an endowed chair established in his honor during his lifetime.

The Benjamin T. Spencer Professorship in Literature was created in 1978. Today OWU has 54 endowed chairs and professorships, including those in the names of David Jennings, professor of history, as well as Libby Reed and Charles Weis, professors of English; and many donors and their loved ones.

The Spencer professorship was fully funded with a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and gifts, pledges, life income gifts, and bequests chiefly from the students who remembered and loved Spencer as a teacher and a mentor. Today there are 440 individual and organizational donors to the Spencer Professorship. Anyone can make a gift to an already established endowment. Endowed professorships and chairs recognize the achievements of the holder and help OWU maintain a high standard of excellence in teaching and research.

Under the terms of the Spencer professorship, a member of the English Department faculty is chosen to fill the chair for a two-year term, renewable once. The incumbent is to deliver a yearly public lecture, which carries a stipend. The position is currently held by Karen Poremski, associate professor of English, who focuses on Native American literature, women’s literature, and American literature before 1900.

Return to the Winter 2018 OWU Magazine

Elevating Faculty with a Permanent Gift