COLLEGE STATION --
As development director for Texas A&M University's College of Science, Don Birkelbach has convinced scores of former students to donate money to the college -- even himself.
Birkelbach '70 recently endowed a $40,000 chemistry scholarship in the name of one of his former chemistry professors, the late Minoru Tsutsui. Asked why, Birkelbach recited reasons he hears over and over from former students he contacts on the fund-raising trail: He wanted to give something back to that university that helped him so profoundly, and he wanted to honor a professor who made a difference in his life and career.
The first Texas A&M chemistry student to earn a master's degree under Dr. Tsutsui, Birkelbach learned lessons from his mentor that proved invaluable in his own career as a chemist at Dow Chemical Co. "The research work I was able do in his labs prepared me very well for the chemistry I did at Dow," said Birkelbach, who returned to the College of Science as development director in October 2001 after a 27-year career with the chemical giant.
Initially assigned as a chemist in Dow's Freeport, Texas, research labs, Birkelbach helped to develop catalysts for the production of polyethylene. The research helped to spur the development of linear low-density polyethylene, a ubiquitous plastic used in an array of products, from food wraps and containers to grocery sacks and trash bags.
The Department of Chemistry matched Birkelbach's donation to establish the $40,000 scholarship, to benefit qualifying chemistry undergraduates from Texas. Known as the "Dr. Minoru Tsutsui Memorial Endowed Scholarship," it is one of six new chemistry scholarships created as a result of chemistry fund-raising campaign that the College of Science Development Office launched in December. The ongoing campaign has generated more than $250,000 in scholarships for deserving Texas A&M chemistry students, and matching money is still available, Birkelbach said.
Contact: Mark Minton, Communications Specialist, Texas A&M University College of Science; (979) 862-1237 or email@example.com; or Don Birkelbach, director of development; (979) 847-9218 or firstname.lastname@example.org