LAWRENCE -- Inspired by his mother's interests in botany and conservation, a University of Washington professor has given $100,000 to establish an award for students studying plant biology at the University of Kansas.
Bellevue, Wash., alumni Benjamin D. Hall and Margaret Black Hall made the gift to the Kansas University Endowment Association to create the Mary Harkey Hall Award in Plant Biology. The award will be given to outstanding graduate and undergraduate students studying plant systematics, ecology, evolution or biogeography.
Ben said his late mother, Mary Hall, liberal arts '24, studied botany as a KU student and was known for her interests in native plants and conservation.
"She was a major force in our family, bringing up her three sons and incorporating her values," Ben said. "As a very bright person, she might well have had an important career in science, but she gave that up to raise children and be involved in the community. This award recognizes those contributions."
Ben, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, said he and his brothers -- Hubert "Hub" Hall, geology '49, and William J. Hall, civil engineering '48 -- were brought up in an atmosphere that stimulated their interest in the natural world. Often the brothers went on camping and field collection trips with their mother and father, the late E. Raymond Hall, liberal arts '24 and a former director of the KU Natural History Museum. On these occasions, Ben said, Mary studiously identified the local plant life, especially berries and fruits -- not all of them edible!
Mary was involved in conservation efforts such as Save the Tallgrass Prairie, an organization dedicated to preserving the prairie lands of the Flint Hills in central Kansas. She was active in the Girl Scouts in Douglas County, working as a leader, administrator and conservation educator. She was instrumental in establishing what is now Hidden Valley, a 40-acre Girl Scout day camp in Lawrence, and worked to ensure that only native grasses were planted there. In 1988, she died at the age of 87.
"Ben Hall's generous donation in honor of his mother will benefit students studying many aspects of plant biology at KU," said Craig Martin, professor and chair of ecology and evolutionary biology at KU. "It is a fitting honor given that Mary Hall epitomized the best of such students, applying her botanical knowledge to enhance the public's awareness of the importance of conservation and native plants in Kansas. We are extremely grateful for benefactors like Ben whose generosity will enhance our ability to educate and train students like his mother."
Ben, chemistry '54, earned a doctorate in chemistry in 1958 at Harvard University. He taught chemistry at the University of Illinois from 1958 until 1963, then left to join the faculty of the Department of Genetics at the University of Washington. During his tenure as chair of the department, his studies resulted in patents for using yeast cells to produce genetically engineered biopharmaceuticals such as the Hepatitis B vaccine and human insulin. In 1994, he was named a professor of botany and now maintains an appointment in botany and the Department of Genome Sciences.
Margaret, liberal arts '54, is retired. A former K-12 educator, she also has taught in the teacher education program of the University of Washington. She earned a doctorate in history at the university in 1984. She and Ben have two children, Anne and Charles.
The Halls' gift counts toward the $500 million goal of KU First: Invest in Excellence, the largest fund-raising campaign in KU history. KU Endowment is conducting KU First on behalf of KU through 2004 to raise funds for scholarships, fellowships, professorships, capital projects and program support. KU Endowment is an independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fund-raising and fund-management organization for KU.