Former faculty’s gift to improve chemistry education at HU
Back in the mid-1980s, when Jack Fletcher, Ph.D., started working at Heritage, the chemistry lab was little more than a hand-me-down portable filled with tables and chairs and not much in the way of scientific equipment. Then Christmas came in the form of a donation of 10-12 chemistry stations from a Yakima-area Catholic high school that was upgrading their school science labs.
Throughout his career teaching chemistry, first in a high school, then at Big Bend community college and Heritage, Fletcher repeatedly saw that the need for equipment in the science labs he loved always outpaced the availability of budgeted funds. That’s why, earlier this year, when he and his wife JB Fletcher, Ed.D (Ball State University) discussed making a significant contribution to Heritage, they decided to direct their gift to the chemistry department to buy science equipment.
“We supported Heritage from year to year, and this year we got to thinking about the uniqueness of the situation right now. I thought now was the best time we could do something significant,” he said.
Heritage is a family affair for the Fletchers. Jack started teaching at the university part-time shortly after Heritage College formed. Within a year, he moved to full-time and split his work between teaching science and managing the physical plant. JB taught psychology and counseling classes for most of her time at Heritage and one year as a full-time instructor.
The two left Heritage in 1989 when Jack entered the University of Utah to pursue his doctoral degree in Chemical and Fuels Engineering. However, their experiences at the Heritage never left their hearts and minds.
“We had a great time at Heritage, just a lovely bunch of people, students, the nuns, and all the people there who were supportive,” said JB.
The impact of the Fletchers’ gift will be most deeply felt when fall 2021 classes get underway. The department is replacing several worn-out pieces of equipment.
“The timing and magnitude of the Fletchers’ gift carry an immeasurable impact,” said Tyson Miller, Ph.D., a professor in the natural sciences program. “Both our physics research and our organic chemistry lab instruction were at a crossroads. Their gift allows us to purchase new software and hardware capable of acquiring data for advanced research projects with students and further publications, as well as to upgrade and replace these essential instruments needed for acquiring techniques in organic synthesis and purification.”
For the Fletchers, there is satisfaction in a commitment to Heritage that has, in many ways, come full circle.
“It feels pretty good that I was part of the beginning of the chemistry department, and it has grown from there. Maybe my gift can help take the program where it needs to go for the people who are there now,” said Jack.
Heritage family loses long-time supporter and friend