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The Blue & Gray Press | August 22, 2019

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Large donation to Chemistry Department raises hope for department’s future

Large donation to Chemistry Department raises hope for department’s future


The University of Mary Washington’s Chemistry department recently received a large donation from Mrs. Erminia Ubaldi Daspit’s estate sale and its destiny is yet to be determined. Daspit’s gift to the university was given to the chemistry department in honor of her undergraduate degree in chemistry during her years at UMW. Daspit passed away in April, 2015 and wanted a portion of the profits from her estate sale to be given to the university in memorial of her graduating class of 1949.

Currently, the money is in the Mary Washington First Campaign foundation account with other smaller monetary gifts to accrue interest until it is distributed elsewhere. The account currently holds $41 million and Daspit’s donation has greatly contributed to the university’s goal of $50 million.

Unsurprisingly, the $50 million will be used to further advance UMW as a premier public liberal arts and sciences university. Professor Charles Sharpless, the Chair of Chemistry at UMW, said the department has typically used foundation funds for small expenses.

“The department historically uses foundation funds only for small supplemental needs, such as supporting student or faculty travel to conferences when other funding isn’t available, purchasing snacks for student and faculty meetings [and] supporting the travel of outside speakers,” Sharpless said.

When speaking to the chemistry department as a whole, it was collectively agreed that it is best for the money to remain in the foundation account so that it can gain interest over time.

However, this does not halt Sharpless, along with students, from seeing a great potential in the newfound funds, as Daspit’s donation has been the biggest one received by the department in the past few years.

Although Sharpless knows the practical uses of the funding, he has been a chemistry professor since 2004, and for the first time, would like to one day acquire enough money to start an annual scholarship for chemistry students.

“It is not impossible to imagine that when the Jepson [science center] renovation and addition are complete, there may be something special the department wants to do. In that case, we might use foundation funds,” Sharpless said. Cassi Tomiko, a junior chemistry major, also wants to see major growth in the chemistry department and hopes that the funds go toward studying abroad.

Tomiko claims that there are a plethora of opportunities in Europe and Africa. She wants to go into the pharmaceutical industry and says going to Africa is beneficial to students like her because they would be able to create and bring medicine from America that isn’t usually found in Africa.

“A lot of people don’t get to study abroad because it is very expensive…it would fulfill the experiential credit that we have to have,” Tomiko said. Tomiko also expresses interest in having the funds go towards expanding the research the students get to do. No matter where the money goes, the donation by Daspit has made a serious impact, and the extent of its impact will remain to be seen, though it is greatly appreciated.