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Two alumni make gifts to support Western Kentucky University’s Ogden Innovation Endowment Fund

Two WKU alumni who graduated from programs within the Ogden College of Science and Engineering have made gifts to support the Ogden Innovation Endowment Fund. In recognition of these gifts, spaces within the new Ogden College Hall were named in their honor.

Dr. Talia McKinney Collins (’93) and her husband, Patrick, recently made a gift to support the Ogden Innovation Endowment Fund, an endowment that provides unrestricted funding for the College. The Student Outreach Office in Ogden College Hall was named in honor of the Collinses.

Dr. Talia McKinney Collins

“Gratitude is why we give,” said Dr. Collins. “I am so thankful for my education at WKU because it is the foundation of my career. It is why I do something I love today and every day.”

Dr. Collins earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and mathematics from WKU and a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from Purdue University. She is a Senior Research Chemist in the Printing and Packaging business unit at Michelman, Inc., in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is currently serving on the Ogden College Advisory Board, and she is a Lifetime Member of the WKU Alumni Association.

She was inspired to help create opportunities for others because she was able to attend WKU through the support of a scholarship. She also acknowledges that everyone serves as a role model for someone, especially for one’s children, and giving back sets a good example.

“I envision the Ogden Innovation Endowment Fund using donations to provide innovative educational opportunities for students,” said Dr. Collins. “I am also passionate about advancing women in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields and hope the funds fulfill that purpose, too.”

Dr. Collins credits the hands-on exposure during her time at WKU for helping her be prepared for her long-term career goals.

“I conducted my own research through lab experiments and testing with state-of-the-art equipment at WKU,” said Dr. Collins. “When I went to Purdue for my Ph.D., there were people from much larger schools who had not done any hands-on research or analytical testing. Western was a great educational experience, especially from a practical capability perspective.”

Dr. James W. Foster

Dr. James W. Foster (’81) also made a gift to support the Ogden Innovation Endowment Fund. The Dr. James W. Foster Study Room in the Chemistry Department in Ogden College Hall was named in his honor.

“I am so happy to see the plans for the Ogden Innovation Endowment Fund coming to fruition,” said Dr. Foster. “This new addition of the Ogden College Hall will provide a much-needed safe place to live, learn and grow in the sciences at WKU.”

Dr. Foster, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from WKU, is a physician in private practice in Knoxville, Tenn. He is also a Lifetime Member of the WKU Alumni Association.

He shared that he was inspired to support the University after being on campus at Homecoming and searching for a way to show how important WKU had been in his development as a person and as a physician. The Ogden Innovation Endowment Fund provided a way for him to not only support the University, but also leave a mark of his legacy for future generations to see.

“Critical thinking has always been and remains an intricate component of medical management and medical care, and I know for a fact that my time at WKU laid the foundation for my thoughts at this level,” said Dr. Foster. “I use writing skills from Cherry Hall, socialization skills forged at the Downing Student Center and the scientific skills born at the Thompson Complex. That’s how I became better prepared for my internal medicine and medical pain management career.”

The Ogden Innovation Endowment Fund provides unrestricted funding to support initiatives like research, scholarships, student assistantships, internships, travel to conferences and other professional organization events, study abroad opportunities and the greatest needs of students studying within Ogden College of Science & Engineering. This Fund can also be used attract and retain high-quality faculty and staff. This type of funding allows for flexibility and vision to directly invest in students, faculty and staff while funding projects and initiatives that would otherwise go unfunded.

“I am grateful to Drs. Collins and Foster for their generous gifts to the Ogden College Innovation Fund,” said Dr. Cheryl Stevens, Dean of Ogden College. “This year, we have designated income from the Ogden Innovation Fund to support applied research and engaged student experiences.”

Last year, funds were used to support travel for students to attend and present research results at the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco. This year, the College has contributed funds to biochemistry major, Meg Dillingham, to help her spend the summer at Harvard Medical School working on a research project with Dr. Johnathan Whetstine, an Associate Professor at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital who is a 1997 WKU alumnus.

“These types of experiences are invaluable to students and represent the best in high-impact practices that result in student persistence,” said Dr. Stevens. “Private, flexible funding helps us provide financial assistance so students can fully participate.”

From Western Kentucky University

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