February 23, 2012

Alumna Donates $1 Million to CALS

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An alumna donated $750,000 to create new scholarships for students studying agricultural sciences, an interdisciplinary major created in 2006 in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

The gift, part of a larger $1 million donation to CALS, was set aside by Marcia Stofman Morton ’61. The gift was a bequest, meaning it will not be realized until her death, according to Ronald Van Ormer, major gifts officer for the CALS Alumni Development office.

Morton’s gift was the second-largest donation in the history of the agricultural sciences major, after Richard C. Call’s ’52 $1 million donation to the college in 2010.

“The funds are going to be primarily used for scholarships to bring in top-notch students who are in need of financial aid and to students from New York State from more rural areas that are good fits for the major,” said Prof. Antonio DiTommaso, director of agricultural sciences.

In addition to attracting high-performing students, the donation will help support students completing the agricultural sciences’ mandatory internship program, DiTommaso said. DiTommaso said he is looking forward to easing the financial burden on students traveling to complete this requirement.“We are all kids looking to go back to farms, and when all your work needs to go back into the land, you’re not going to have the resources to easily pay back your student loans,” said Elias Barber ’13, an agricultural sciences major.DiTommaso also saw the donation as a strong endorsement of the newly created major, which boasts an enrollment of around 100 students.“This raises the profile of the major,” he said. “I am glad donors and alumni feel a major like this can be supported. This is also a reflection of what they feel about the kinds of students that we are training … We hope students will come back in time and remember these gifts.”DiTommaso also hopes to allocate money toward funding more seminar series and guest speakers, as well as subsidizing trips to industry conferences so students will not have to pay out of pocket to attend them.“I often say I wish I had money, both as a student and as an administrator, to go to conferences, and a gift like this has a big impact — more than a lot of people think,” DiTommaso said.The remaining $250,000 will be used to add a summer internship position at the Cornell Plantations and help fund research at the Laboratory of Ornithology.“Marcia Morton has supported Cornell Plantations for many years, and we are deeply grateful for her foresight and generosity in making this commitment in her estate plan,” Donald A. Rakow MPS ’77, Ph.D. ’87, director of Cornell Plantations, said.Rakow expressed appreciation for Morton’s gift, saying that Cornell Plantations’ student internship program gives students “an opportunity to learn new skills, through their assignments, their interaction with our staff members and from each other.”In turn, he said, staff at the Plantations gain from “the energy, creativity and knowledge that each student brings to their internship.”Irby Lovette, associate director for academic affairs at the Laboratory of Ornithology, said in a University press release that Morton’s donation will support a rising generation of students.“We are always stretching our financial support to cover this incredible cadre of young scientists, so this new support will definitely allow us to help additional students accomplish great things,” Lovette said.John Russell ’13, president of Agricultural Sciences Ambassadors, called Morton’s gift “an encouragement to innovate in our field, keep exploring and find applications for agriculture that improve our world.”

Original Author: Dan Temel