Baylor Dedicates New Lab Equipment Made Possible by Keck Grant

March 19, 2001

by LoAna Lopez

Baylor University celebrated W.M. Keck Foundation Day in February, honoring the foundation for 20 years of philanthropic support to the university. The occasion was marked by a reception and the dedication of newly purchased state-of-the-art laboratory equipment for Baylor's fastest-growing undergraduate science majors - bioinformatics and biochemistry. These purchases were made possible by a $500,000 grant given by the foundation during the fall semester.

In biochemistry, that grant helped to upgrade and create laboratory courses, as well as purchase equipment for undergraduate research. The grant also has allowed bioinformatics to upgrade the molecular genetics teaching laboratory and a bioinformatics teaching laboratory.

"The W.M. Keck Foundation has had a long relationship with Baylor University, dating back 20 years to 1981 when they established the W.M. Keck Foundation Professor in Geophysics," said Dr. Ben Pierce, associate dean for sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. The first holder of that title was Dr. Harold Beaver, distinguished professor emeritus and former chair of geology. Dr. Thomas Goforth, chair of the geology department, currently holds the position.

"Since that initial gift, the foundation has made a major gift to Baylor every 4-6 years," Pierce said. "They helped us purchase equipment in geophysics, automate the library catalog, establish the W.M. Keck Foundation Seismological Observatory Laboratory and purchase new electron microscopes. Their latest gift, providing equipment for our bioinformatics and biochemistry programs, continues their legacy of supporting the sciences at Baylor."

Such support enables the Baylor community to engage in advanced levels of study, according to Dr. Benjamin S. Kelley, dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

"Bioinformatics itself is in a young evolutionary state and its very nature calls for the use of imaginative and modern instrumentation," Kelley said. "Because of the Keck Foundation, Baylor students and faculty now have access to a much elevated grade of tools that will help promote learning and discovery."

Furthermore, by investing in cutting-edge courses, the Keck foundation affords students opportunities they might otherwise not have.

"The future of science lies in multidisciplinary approaches to fundamental questions," said Pierce. "Today's science students must be capable of synthesizing information and technology across disciplines. This new equipment will give our students hands-on experience with the latest technology."

The W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles is one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations. Established in 1954 by the late William Myron Keck, founder of The Superior Oil Company, the foundation's grants focus primarily on the areas of medical research, science and engineering. The foundation also maintains a program for liberal arts colleges and a Southern California Grant Program that provides support in the areas of civic community services, health care and hospitals, pre-collegiate education and the arts.

In 1996, Robert A. Day succeeded his uncle, the late Howard B. Keck, as chairman and president of the W. M. Keck Foundation. Under their leadership the foundation has made grants of over $875 million while its assets have grown from $250 million to over $1.7 billion today.

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