University of Texas at Austin alums Roger and Ann Worthington have donated $500,000 to establish the Lawrence E. Gilbert, Jr. Excellence Endowment, an endowment for the benefit of Brackenridge Field Laboratory (BFL) and research and education in ecology and biodiversity.
The Worthingtons are honoring one of Roger Worthington's former professors, Larry Gilbert, a noted evolutionary ecologist and professor of integrative biology who has been the director of BFL since 1980.
"This is a way for Ann and I to honor Larry and the other ecologists at The University of Texas at Austin for their great work, and to send a message to our kids and the next generation that the natural world is itself a laboratory that deserves our awe, study and attention," says Roger Worthington (B.A.-Plan II, 1983; J.D., 1986). "We hope this money will enhance UT's reputation as a first class university that cares about the environment and help preserve open space in an overdeveloped community."
Roger Worthington took Gilbert's Plan II biology course in 1980, and he says the course opened his eyes to the unintended damages humans inflict on the environment.
"Larry taught us that human efforts to control or simplify nature can have a ripple effect that may come back to haunt us if we're not careful stewards," says Roger Worthington, a trial lawyer who represents victims of asbestos poisoning.
The Worthingtons would like to see the endowment grow through future donations into an endowed chair in biodiversity and applied ecology. When $1 million has been raised, the endowment will be renamed the Lawrence E. Gilbert, Jr. Chair in Biodiversity and Applied Ecology.
"An endowed chair will empower the university to continue to recruit outstanding faculty who can both direct the Brackenridge Field Lab and promote its general mission," says Roger Worthington.
This is the Worthingtons' second gift to support ecology and evolutionary biology education at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2003, they established the Worthington Endowed Professorship for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in Plan II, intended to continue the biology course in the Plan II program.
"We hope this donation to BFL will encourage more students to take the time to chase butterflies, ponder the relationship between nutrients, energy and competing species, and just plain get their hands dirty out in the fields, where it all began," says Roger Worthington.