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A class gift honors a gifted professor



For its fortieth reunion last year, Skidmore’s class of 1964 was determined to make its class gift extraordinary and long-lasting. The alumnae especially wanted to forge an ongoing relationship with a faculty member whose work is contributing to Skidmore’s curricular excellence and innovation—a scholar whose passion for teaching and research exemplifies the very heart of the Skidmore experience. And so the class, led by Lynne Tower Combs, Judith Pick Eissner, and Beverly Fuhrmann Gregory, raised more than $500,000 in annual-fund commitments to underwrite a professorship for five years.

The first appointee to the Class of 1964 Chair for Leadership in the Sciences is Corey Freeman-Gallant, a biologist who’s received two National Science Foundation grants to study bird reproductive behavior. His first grant provided students with high-tech DNA-sequencing equipment and skills; his second project evolved from a summer research partnership between Freeman-Gallant and Elizabeth Johnson ’02. Both projects included intercollege exchanges and a mix of research techniques.

Combs is impressed that Freeman-Gallant’s “passion for undergraduate teaching and science is transmitted to students through hands-on participation in high-level laboratory and field research”—experiences more typically available only in graduate programs. As he explains, “Science is not a body of knowledge to be passively absorbed by students, but a process of active inquiry that is more effectively taught by doing.”

Eissner, meanwhile, is delighted that her classmates took this “unique opportunity to recognize outstanding faculty and to make a real contribution to Skidmore. Our commitment to the college stems from the rich experiences we had with our teachers here—both inside and outside of the classroom.”

This summer a group of ’64ers will have an opportunity to work right alongside Freeman-Gallant and his students, doing field research in the woods near Skidmore’s campus. That pleases the professor immensely: “Oh, I’d definitely like to get them out there, catching and banding birds,” he says, smiling broadly.

These activist alumnae are eager to embark on a long and rich relationship with Freeman-Gallant and his work. As Gregory says, “We are proud that Skidmore is a •hot school’ right now, and the primary reason for that is the excellent education available because of wonderful professors like Corey.” —MM