An Evening to Remember: Honoring Neal Abraham '72

Neal Abraham '72 and Donna Wiley pose before the plaque in their honor. As a member of the Founders' Society, they are memorialized in a plaque in Old West. Photo by Dan Loh.

Neal Abraham '72 and Donna Wiley pose before the plaque in their honor. As a member of the Founders' Society, they are memorialized in a plaque in Old West. Photo by Dan Loh.

Trustee inducted into Dickinson's Founders' Society

Neal Abraham ’72’s undergraduate years laid a firm foundation for his stellar career, and throughout his professional life, he’s given back to the college where it all began. On Friday, Oct. 21, the Dickinson community gathered to pay tribute to Abraham and his remarkable philanthropy to Dickinson.

The event marked Abraham’s induction into the college’s Founders’ Society, recognizing donors whose lifetime giving to Dickinson totals $1 million or more. Members are honored through a permanent display in Old West. The informational panels hang outside Memorial Hall, where the first part of the Oct. 21 ceremony was held.

Remarks in Memorial Hall

Throughout the event, faculty, administrators and students expressed gratitude for Abraham’s support of the college, which began when he was a student-organizer of the endowment for the Rubendall Senior Scholarship. He and his wife, Donna, have continued to give toward scholarships over the years. They’ve also funded the college’s Laser Lab and two student alcoves in the Rector Science Complex. And in 2022, to express gratitude for his transformative undergraduate research experience at Dickinson and the scholarships Neal received, they established another scholarship endowment and endowed funds to support student-faculty research.

After remarks by President John E. Jones III ’77, P’11, who had served alongside Abraham on the college’s Board of Trustees, two members of the Dickinson faculty thanked Abraham for his gifts toward student-faculty research. Kristin Strock, associate professor of environmental studies and chair of the environmental studies and environmental-science departments, described a research project she did last summer with Prerana Patil ’24 (environmental sciencechemistry). David Jackson, professor of physics & astronomy, discussed 2018 student-faculty research with Natalie Ferris ’18, which led the duo to publish two papers; Jackson later was bestowed a national teaching award for that work, and Ferris accepted a national physics honor as well.

“Carrying out a project like this requires a lot of support, including summer support for students and faculty members, computers, software, and other experimental equipment,” Jackson noted, adding that it would not have been possible without gifts like those of Neal and Donna.

Ellie Pattillo ’23 (psychology and women’s, gender & sexuality studies) spoke about her experiences as a recipient of the Howard L. Rubendall Senior Presidential Scholarship, awarded by the president of Dickinson to a rising senior who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and scholarship. She thanked Abraham directly for “true leadership in areas that contribute so much to the Dickinson student experience.”

Research presentations in Rector

The second part of the program was staged in the Rector Science Complex. Attendees were invited to sit in on one of several student-faculty research presentations held in rooms and spaces nearby.

  • Strock discussed work with student-researchers Riley Kuehn ’24 (international business & management) and Olivia Trombley ’22 (environmental science) investigating toxic algae in Pennsylvania lakes, rivers, ponds and other surface waters, and how we can use policy and management to strengthen our capacity to detect, prevent and control this environmental health hazard.
  • Colin Rathbun, assistant professor of chemistry, described the new molecular tools he’s developing with student-scientists with Kat Usavage ’23 (chemistry), Stephanie Uroda ’23 (chemistry, neuroscience) and Suong Tran ’24 (chemistry). The research team presented a bioluminescence demonstration, illustrating how bioluminescence from deep-sea shrimp can be used to illuminate cancer cells in a mouse.
  • Tiffany Frey, associate professor of biology; Jack Drda ’24 (biology); and Rylee Beam ’23 and Katherine Gong ’23 (both biochemistry, molecular biology) are investigating systemic autoinflammatory diseases (SAIDs), a group of rare diseases, and how understanding SAIDs can help us better understand the human immune system.
  • Sarah St. Angelo, associate professor and chair of chemistry, delivered a hands-on presentation representing her work with Uyen Nguyen ’24 (physics, chemistry) on the environmental and energy applications of nanomaterials.
  • The business of pop culture was the topic of research for Greg Steirer, associate professor of English and film & media studies, and Maxwell Abramson ’24 (English).
  • House Divided student-interns Sarayne Forbes ’25 (American studies), Charlotte Goodman ’23 (international studiesSpanish) and Jordan Schucker ’25 (international studies, political science) presented information about Dickinson’s Knowledge for Freedom summer seminar for high-school students.

As Strock noted earlier in the evening, research experiences like these are rarely afforded to undergraduates in American higher education, particularly those studying at big universities. And the Dickinson undergrads who perform this work do more than contribute to faculty scholarly interests. They also help shape students’ career paths, positioning them to continue to contribute meaningfully throughout their professional lives.

“It is my distinct pleasure to extend my thanks to Dr. Neal Abraham for his support of student-faculty research,” Strock said, noting that her student research partner expressed that the experience not only clarified her professional plans by introducing her to the methods and tools of a career but also provided her with the confidence to pursue that path. “Dr. Abraham, thank you very much.”


Published October 27, 2022