Summer 2024
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Science Outreach Scholarship Honors Longtime Professor

Dwight Kimberly downplays his role in the success of the university’s Science Outreach Program, but a scholarship in his name will ensure it continues to thrive By Sean Patterson

His name has been synonymous with science at George Fox for three decades, so it came as no surprise that a group of classmates wanted to do something to honor his contributions to the institution.

And yet, Dwight Kimberly, the biology professor who taught at George Fox full time from 1994 until “retiring” in 2011, was caught completely off guard by the gesture. The announcement of the Dwight J. Kimberly Science Outreach Endowed Scholarship – earmarked to financially assist students involved in Kimberly’s brainchild, the Science Outreach Program – still has him shaking his head.

“I’m not one for attention, so please be sure to downplay my name in all this,” Kimberly says with a laugh. “But if it helps sustain the program, I’m all for it. It’s not about me. It’s about George Fox continuing to be a resource to schools and teachers who otherwise wouldn’t have access to the things we offer.”

Dwight Kimberly and Kent Thornburg

Dwight Kimberly (left) and Kent Thornburg

Through the program, George Fox undergraduate students teach science courses in lab settings and take children on outdoor excursions; local public and private schools, home-school parents and members of the community can borrow science equipment like microscopes free of charge; and special custom presentations, including a Star Lab planetarium, can be arranged on schools’ campuses.

The program began in the mid-1990s when Kimberly, a 1967 alumnus of the university, began his full-time teaching tenure at George Fox. He met with Neal Thorpe, executive director of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, to discuss the possibility of initiating a science program that would benefit both George Fox students and the community at large. The trust followed up with a grant to buy science equipment and cover personnel costs for what became the Science Outreach Program.

“It really was unique for its time, and to this day nobody in our area does it quite like we do it,” says Kimberly, who continues to serve as the program’s community liaison. “We had no idea then how impactful it would be. Not only did we provide a resource to the community, a number of our students ended up bypassing the med school route and decided to become teachers themselves. I didn’t anticipate that. Never saw it coming.”

He was equally surprised when he attended this year’s Dalton Lecture Series luncheon on campus. He noticed Moses Lee, vice president for research grants and programming with Murdock, was in attendance. Friends from the class of 1967 began filtering into the room. Then family members started showing up.

“I thought, ‘Are these people all here to listen to the Dalton speaker? This guy must be good,’” he recalls. “Then [President Robin] Baker gets up and announces the fact they are starting this endowed scholarship. I’m not sure why I was singled out. So many people have made this possible. I suppose it’s because I was the catalyst to get it going.”

“The students the program serves have no idea how fortunate they are to get special attention as they learn about the world of science. This has been made possible all because of Dwight’s calling to be an extraordinary teacher.”

Kimberly soon learned the idea for such a scholarship was initiated by good friend and classmate Kent Thornburg, who serves as the founding director for the Center of Developmental Health at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute at Oregon Health & Science University. Thornburg and his wife, Jeanie, joined with biology classmates Larry Roberts, Jon Bishop and Jon Newkirk to create the scholarship in Kimberly’s honor.

“Dwight has become known and loved by hundreds of students,” Thornburg says. “We wanted to honor him for the amazing impact he’s had at George Fox, not only as a professor but as a friend to students. He’s kept track of many of them and even attended dozens of weddings as they progressed in their lives.

“And, if not for this program, many students, including home-schoolers, would not have had any laboratory experience. It remains a phenomenal boost to George Fox. There could hardly be any better way to recruit students than to have them get to know a wonderful professor and to feel at home on the George Fox campus.”

This fall will mark the first year of the scholarship, to be given to a traditional undergraduate student majoring in biology, biochemistry or a science-related major who is actively involved in the Science Outreach Program. Specifics of the award amounts to be distributed have yet to be determined, and the award will grow as the fund continues to grow.

“This scholarship represents a meaningful way to honor its namesake and provide much-needed support to George Fox science students,” says Arminda Lathrop, vice president of advancement.

Today, the program continues to flourish. When Kimberly retired from full-time teaching in 2011, Kathy Weiss took over as director for several years. More recently, Tennille Hostetler has served as its coordinator – a role that will now be filled by biology professor Marissa Dickison.

“It’s really been a team effort,” Kimberly says of the program’s success. “The bottom line is, we’re not here to be OMSI. We’re here to equip teachers to be the scientists. At its heart we ask the question, ‘How can we be of service? What can we do to help you better teach science?’”

In the end, Kimberly – as much as he doesn’t want the attention – was singled out.

“A group of his classmates admire him so much for his integrity, leadership, love for students, and his love for George Fox as an institution,” Thornburg says. “This scholarship is only a small token of our appreciation for his contributions to higher education in Oregon.

“The students the program serves have no idea how fortunate they are to get special attention as they learn about the world of science. This has been made possible all because of Dwight’s calling to be an extraordinary teacher.”

A biology student and a child sharing their science experiment

Support the Science Outreach Scholarship

“What can we do to help you better teach science?”

A gift to the Dwight J. Kimberly Science Outreach Scholarship provides critical funding for a student in the Science Outreach Program, allowing that student to volunteer their time and share their love of science with the local community.

To make a gift in honor of Dwight or your favorite George Fox professor, give online or call 503-554-2115. We’ll be sure to let them know!

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