augusta free press news

Two new academic chairs, science institute announced at BC

Edited by Chris Graham

The establishment of two new academic chairs and a science institute was announced on Tuesday at Bridgewater College’s Founder’s Day activities.

The A. LeRoy and Wanda Harmon Baker Chair of Science honors the couple’s contributions to science, society, the community and the College, and their commitment to education. A. LeRoy Baker, who graduated from Bridgewater in 1961, was a prominent national leader in the development of recombinant DNA technology for human health care applications. Baker died in 2006.

“Dr. Baker talked about the satisfaction of doing meaningful research that had practical implications for many people,” said BC President Phillip C. Stone. “He also acknowledged that he had been well paid for his work, but that the gratification came not from money, but from what having money allowed him to do — including providing decent housing for struggling families and going to Honduras to build clinics to serve the medically impoverished.”

Wanda Harmon Baker, who also graduated from BC in 1961, was present at the Founder’s Day ceremony for the announcement of the establishment of the chair in honor of the Bakers.

The John W. Martin Summer Science Research Institute has been established to honor the late Bridgewater professor and his expertise as a teacher and exceptional caring and mentoring for students. Martin, a 1944 alumnus of Bridgewater, taught chemistry at the College from 1961-1985. He died in 1987.

“His students recognized his special caring and to this day appreciate his attention to them and their future life after Bridgewater,” said Beverly S. Butterfield, vice president for institutional advancement at BC. “He was loved by his students even if he didn’t give them a good grade. A colleague once said, ‘When I failed a student, the student blamed me. When Dr. Martin failed a student, they still loved him!’”

Martin’s wife, Betty Blough Martin, BC class of 1945, was present for the announcement of the establishment of the institute.

The William Thomas Chair of Humane Letters was established to honor the late William W. Thomas, BC class of 1954, who bequeathed nearly $2 million to the College through his will. Thomas, a professor of philosophy and religion at James Madison University from 1971-1997, was a devoted intellectual in all pursuits, including opera, classical music, art, literature and drama. He died in 2009.

“Although he reached the highest levels of intellectual understanding and expertise, his great pleasure in life was reaching out to students and helping them achieve more in their educations than they ever thought possible,” said Stone.

Representing the Thomas estate at the ceremony was Wayne B. Pankey, CPA, of Brown, Edwards & Co. LLP, the executor of Thomas’ estate.