Decades after benefiting from a Dominican’s generosity to complete his education, an alumnus left the College an approximately $6.5 million bequest to establish an academic chair and foster research and scholarship in chemistry and biochemistry.
Through his gift, the late Robert H. Walsh ’39 & ’66Hon. endowed the College’s first academic chair in the sciences and added funds to the previously established Robert H. Walsh Scholarship Fund and the Robert H. Walsh ’39 Academic Fund. When the final distribution of Mr. Walsh’s estate is complete, each fund will total more than $2 million.
Mr. Walsh, a Platinum Torchbearer for gifts of $1 million and above in PC’s 1917 Society, is one of the College’s all-time leading benefactors. He died in 2011.
As an undergraduate, the Rhode Island native felt a great debt of gratitude to the late Rev. Frederick C. Hickey, O.P., then chair of the Department of Chemistry and later vice president for community affairs, said Joseph P. Brum ’68, special assistant to the president for development projects in the Office of Institutional Advancement. The Dominican allowed Mr. Walsh to work on campus as a lab attendant to pay his tuition.
“He credited Father Hickey with his success not only as a great teacher,” Brum said. Father Hickey “went out of his way to help with the job in the lab and as a mentor.”
After graduating with degrees in business and chemistry, Mr. Walsh began a 40-year career at the DuPont Chemical Corp. as one of the founders of its elastomers department. Company officials noted his knack for sales and put him in charge of sales and marketing in Europe.
In 1996, he established his scholarship fund for chemistry and biology majors with financial need. That year, the College honored Mr. Walsh, the late Samuel J. Chester ’34 and the late Rev. Charles V. Reichart, O.P. ’32, by dedicating the Albertus Magnus Science Complex to them.
Brum met with Mr. Walsh regularly at his homes in Delaware and Pennsylvania, often accompanied by presidents or other officials from the College. Mr. Walsh would give them handwritten notes with ideas to improve academic programs at PC. One was his academic fund, which will fund student and faculty enrichment outside of the classroom, such as travel to academic conferences.
Dr. Paul T. Czech, professor of chemistry and chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department, said his colleagues and he hope to provide more research opportunities for students through summer stipends for faculty and students as well as financial support to present work at scientific meetings. The department also plans to purchase supplies for freshmen and sophomores to work on research projects for credit — opportunities available for the first time this year.
With additional funds, those students can “get their feet wet at a lower level,” he said.
Hilary Chase ’13 (South Sandwich, Mass.) is a Walsh Scholarship recipient and president of PC’s American Chemical Society/Phi Chi chapter. As a researcher in the lab of Dr. Christopher M. Laperle, assistant professor of chemistry, she knows how powerful research opportunities can be.
In April, Chase won honors for her presentation on the solution dynamics of iron pentacarbonyl — a center metal atom bound by five carbon monoxide molecules — at the American Chemical Society’s national conference. She is the lead author on a paper that is being submitted this fall to a scientific journal. She plans to continue her research in graduate school.
“For me, physical chemistry research is one of the most challenging things I have done as an undergrad,” Chase said. “I’ve gained valuable experience that I would not have been able to obtain in a classroom setting alone.”
The senior said she appreciates the donations from Mr. Walsh. “I’m just proud that he has put all this effort into our education,” she said.
Chase was particularly grateful for the opportunity to travel to conferences. At these meetings, “You take away so much new knowledge and experience by attending different talks, presenting your own research, and by interacting with other scientists in different aspects of chemistry.”
Another scholarship recipient, Giovanni Esposito ’14 (Branford, Conn.), is preparing for medical school while serving as a member of the Friars Club and president of the A Cappella Club. Last summer he interned for a chemical manufacturer.
“I know that my education at Providence wouldn’t be possible without the generous donation from Mr. Walsh,” he said. “All I can hope is that I can be at the point in my life to give back and pay it forward. I know how much of an impact it’s made in my own education. I would love to be able to make the same impact in someone else’s.”