Gift Creates First Endowed Chair at UW-Stevens Point
For the City-Times
A generous gift to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point will establish the university’s first endowed faculty position, enhancing one of the nation’s largest wildlife management programs.
The $2 million gift from Gerald and Helen Stephens honors the memory of their son, Doug Stephens, a 1991 graduate of UW-Stevens Point. The gift will help create the Douglas R. Stephens Chair in Wildlife, a new faculty position in the College of Natural Resources.
When Doug Stephens came to the UW-Stevens Point as a student in 1987, his dream was to become a wildlife biologist. Just weeks after he earned his bachelor’s degree in wildlife management, that dream was dashed. While leading his UW-Stevens Point student research team in search of a hidden black bear den in northern Wisconsin, Stephens suddenly collapsed and died at age 22.
The Stephens, of Peoria, Ill., have directed their gift to establish an endowment that will generate earnings to support wildlife research, outreach and related activities of the chair. This may include funding for research, related professional travel, graduate students and faculty-mentored projects involving students and other members of the college’s wildlife faculty. The university will provide the base salary and fringe benefits for the position.
“Doug was a part of our family, and I can think of no better way to honor his spirit than through a professorship in his name. This teacher will inspire thousands of students for years to come,” said Christine Thomas, dean of the College of Natural Resources at UW-Stevens Point.
In the years following their son’s death, the Stephens family established several endowment funds in their son’s name at the university to support student research and scholarships in wildlife. Gerald Stephens, a UW-Madison alumnus who is now retired from a successful career in the insurance industry, said, “Our hope is this new position will stand forever as a tribute to our son’s memory and carry forth his passion for wildlife at UW-Stevens Point, an institution he so dearly loved.”
“We are humbled and grateful for the faith the Stephens have expressed in UW-Stevens Point,” Chancellor Bernie Patterson said. “This gift opens a new door in the history of our institution, and is a wonderful example of the kind of support that will help our university become more relevant to our community.”
The Stephens’ commitment is among leadership gifts in the early stages of the university’s A Partnership for Thriving Communities capital campaign.