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Legacy donors Richard and Colleen Pitts with former Chapman dean and professor Dr. Virginia Carson
Colleen Pitts, Dr. Virginia Carson, and Dr. Richard Pitts inside the Virginia G. Carson Group Study Room

$1 Million Legacy Gift from Chapman Alumnus to Benefit Students Pursuing Biomedical Careers

If you were a Chapman University student between 1970 and 2016, you may have taken a science class from Dr. Virginia Carson.

During her 45 years at Chapman, Carson wore many hats, including professor of biological sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow, dean of Wilkinson College and director of the post-baccalaureate pre-health professions certificate.

Carson mentored over 200 Chapman students who went on to earn doctorates in medicine (DO/MD), dentistry (DDS), veterinary medicine (DVM), pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and Ph.D. degrees in numerous areas, along with many others who earned master’s degrees in a wide variety of disciplines.

As a transfer student, Chapman provided Richard Pitts, D.O., Ph.D., with a full scholarship, for which he felt a debt of gratitude to his alma mater for investing in him without knowing his future. Now, Richard and his wife, Colleen, want to do the same for future Chapman students. With a commitment of a $1 million estate gift, the couple will establish the Virginia Carson, Ph.D. Endowed Student Research Award, which will provide further opportunities for students pursuing health science careers.

“I am so grateful to Richard and Colleen for their vision to fund the Virgina Carson, Ph.D. Endowed Student Research Award,” said Michael Ibba, Ph.D., dean of Schmid College of Science and Technology. “The fund will be vital in providing our students with the environment they need to conduct high-level research and prepare them for successful STEM careers.”

The Student Research Award — whose recipients will be known as Carson Research Scholars — is the second such endowment named in honor of Carson (a study room in the Leatherby Libraries is also named after her). Richard, Colleen and many other alumni came together in 2007 to establish The Virginia Carson, Ph.D. Endowed Science Discretionary Fund, and it has been supporting student science activities involving travel ever since.

Students Natalie Paterson and Aubrey Emmi have benefited positively from the endowment, as the duo are two of the most recent students awarded funds. As Natalie shared, “Chapman is here to support your growth, and you must be proactive in getting involved and representing yourself so that you can access the opportunities for success you deserve.”

To empower Chapman students to be part of the extensive research opportunities that now take place on campus, the new endowment also has the flexibility to help with research projects that might lead students to participate in outreach programs, seminars, conferences or other experiential opportunities. It enhances the personalized education for the Carson Research Scholars, an important point of emphasis for the Pitts.

“Richard and Colleen’s gift is part of the central pillar to provide Chapman students with an exemplary education,” said President Daniele C. Struppa, Ph.D. “It is only possible for our students to conduct cutting-edge research in our state-of-the-art educational facilities because of the commitment of donors like the Pitts.”

This visionary legacy gift advances Chapman’s strategic plan goal of raising $500 million through its Inspire Campaign.

“We are grateful to Richard and Colleen for offering increased flexibility to support student research at Chapman,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer Matt Parlow. “As an endowment, this legacy gift will grow over time and continue to impact student lives, much as Dr. Carson has through the years.”

Richard and Colleen hope to inspire other alumni to reflect on the opportunities they received and pay it forward to future generations, too. If Chapman inspires you and you want to transform lives like Richard and Colleen, you can learn more online about creating your Chapman legacy or by contacting the Office of Legacy Planning.