Foundation Created by Alumnus will Provide Scholarships and a Greenhouse

biology lab
Harlan Scholar Michelle Sliwinski is researching leaf-tying caterpillars. The Harlan Scholarship helps support her research and field work.

Ten undergraduate and 16 graduate students from GW’s Department of Biology have received extra financial support thanks to a generous gift from an alumnus.

A private foundation has been established by the estate of Wilbur V. (Bill) Harlan, CCAS AA ’34, BS ’35, through a generous $9 million bequest. The new foundation provides support exclusively to GW’s Department of Biological Sciences, with initial distributions totaling $1.35 million being used to support scholarships and create a greenhouse in GW’s new Science and Engineering Hall. Future distributions from the foundation will be split evenly between scholarships and general departmental support.

“We are deeply appreciative of the generous support provided to our Department of Biological Sciences through the Harlan Trust,” said Peg Barratt, dean of GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. “Funding scholarships and a state-of-the-art greenhouse to advance the science of life, in all its varied forms, is a remarkable legacy and a testament to Bill Harlan’s deep commitment to GW.”

The scholarships, which include research stipends and tuition assistance, are merit-based and will fund semester and summer research projects for undergraduate and graduate students as well as specialized workshops and courses.

Some of the projects that this year’s Harlan Scholars are conducting include examining how sea urchins battle bacteria, how cells move to heal wounds and the evolution of catfish in fresh and salt waters.

The foundation has also provided funds for a 3,600-square foot greenhouse facility, to be named in honor of Mr. Harlan, which will be used for teaching and research projects, with a focus on plant-herbivore interactions and the role of plants in developing a more sustainable economy. The greenhouse will be built on the eighth floor of GW’s Science and Engineering Hall, which is slated to open in January 2015 and will nearly double the amount of space currently available at GW for science and engineering.

Partnered with his commitment to GW and his life-long interest in science, Mr. Harlan’s strong belief in the power of education motivated his bequest to fund scholarships. A botany major at GW, Mr. Harlan served as a lab instructor at the university and later, in 1938, began a career teaching English in Kabul, Afghanistan, at the advice of a former GW botany professor.

In World War II, Mr. Harlan served as an instructor and a medical officer in Asia. He was an agricultural specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture at experimental stations in Bolivia, Ecuador, Turkey and Honduras. After retiring, Mr. Harlan traveled the world and lived in Europe for 10 years, spending time in Spain, England and Ireland. In 2001, he published his memoirs, Looking Back at My Life. He passed away in 2006.

Read the full article at GW Today, including comments from students who are already benefiting from the scholarship.

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