Archive for Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Couple’s millions fuel research at university

July 26, 2000


A couple's multimillion dollar donations are making Kansas University more attractive to new researchers.

Al and Lila Self of Hinsdale, Ill., have contributed more than $20 million to a graduate fellowship program in the past 12 years.

"The Self Graduate Fellowship gives us the ability to attract top graduate students to the university," said James Roberts, KU's associate vice chancellor for research. "Graduate students are an integral part of the research program at the university. And they often stay in Kansas."

One such researcher is Karl Brooks, who is moving from the Self Graduate Fellowship to a faculty position at KU. He received a doctorate in history from KU in May.

"It made a huge impact on my life, all of it positive," Brooks said.

Brooks will become an assistant professor of history and environmental studies on Aug. 15.

Brooks earned his bachelor's degree in history from Yale University in 1978. He also earned a master's degree from the London School of Economics and a law degree from Harvard University. He served three terms in the Senate of his home state of Idaho and was director of the Idaho Conservation League before becoming a Self fellow in 1996.

"It's a very interdisciplinary program," Brooks said. "That's where the future of research is, ignoring the boundaries."

The Self Fellowship provides a $20,000 annual stipend and pays for tuition and fees for four years. There are 40 fellowships. Recipients are nominated by their departments.

The Self Fellowship features regular seminars during the year for the graduate students in the program, said Howard Mossberg, managing trustee of the Self Graduate Fellowship and vice chancellor emeritus.

"The general idea is that there are certain skills that come along with being a researcher that the average Ph.D. program does not provide," Mossberg said.

The seminars teach budding researchers skills in topics such as group theory, leadership and creativity.

Brooks said the program was good preparation to be a faculty member.

"I can't say enough for the Self program," he said.

Most of all he enjoyed the meetings with other fellows in the program.

"It gave me a chance to talk with science people all the time," said Brooks, who specializes in environmental history. "I learned a lot about science and about how scientists look at the world."

Madison "Al" Self, a 1943 KU Engineering School graduate and retired chemical manufacturing executive, decided to finance the program when he was approached with the idea during the 1988 Campaign Kansas fund-raising effort, Mossberg said.

This year, the first two Self Faculty Scholars were named. That program provides $50,000 a year for three years to a young faculty member who shows promise in his or her field. A total of six Faculty Scholars are to be named, Mossberg said. After the program is filled, Mossberg and Self will review the success of the faculty program to see if it should continue.

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