Staff, students share excitement over major alumni investment at SLU

A $10 million donation to SLU's endowment will open the door for women seeking degrees in science and engineering programs.

HAMMOND, La. --  SLU Biology professor Dr. Erin Watson-Horzelski takes pride in seeing her Entomology classes filled with a majority of young women.

But she wants to see even more.

"The interest has always been there, we just have to make the availability, and in early years, get females, get little girls interested in math and science," she said.

Pre-med Sophomore Reagan Church is one of those girls who caught the STEM, or "Science, Technology, Engineering and Math," bug early.

"It's something that is going to grow forever," she said, "I mean, there's jobs constantly coming up. It's a growing field, job security is great."

That's why both women were over the moon to hear that 1953 Southeastern business graduate Seth Ryan bequeathed $10 million to the university's Endowment program, with instructions to use it toward scholarships for female students seeking STEM degrees.  He made the gift in honor of his wife, who wanted to earn a degree, but never attended college.

For Cell Biology and Animal Development Professor Dr. Mary White, the money could be a way to boost the number of female students in the STEM program.

Right now, that number is at 15 percent on a campus that's 60 percent female.

"Obviously, all over the country, we need more people in STEM fields, but particularly since women seem to be under-represented, this is just such great news," she said.

This is more than just an opportunity to grow the female presence in STEM programs, and to highlight STEM programs, this is also an opportunity to highlight Southeastern's growth, in general.

"There's really nothing in this that was to point to him, it was about helping others and honoring others and that's really kind of the Southeastern spirit," said SLU President Dr. John Crain, "It's about doing for others and caring for our students and their future success."

It's a success that's now looking brighter than ever.

The criteria for this scholarship is still being developed and the foundation hopes to start offering the awards, fully, in the 2018-2019 school year.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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