A recent major gift from University of Mississippi Professor Emeritus Will St. Amand establishes an award designed to identify and provide support for higher education instruction in introductory-level biology.
Additionally, the Georgia St. Amand Laboratory Teaching Assistant Award in Biology Endowment pays tribute to the donor’s late wife.
“I am emphasizing teaching in this particular undertaking of mine, and I think Georgia Ann would agree with me,” said St. Amand. “If something is done well, then I think that individual deserves recognition.
“I am convinced that the most important part in any endeavor is the foundation that you have to build from. Where is the foundation in biology? To me, the foundation is in the laboratory,” said the Oxford, Mississippi, resident.
In 1970, St. Amand received the university’s outstanding teacher award, which he touts as one of his greatest honors and the inspiration for his gift.
“He was an outstanding teacher,” said Dr. Ed Keiser, then chair of biology. “When I became chair, he was very helpful to me the whole time he was there. I would go to him with departmental questions, and he always knew how to help me with a situation.
“Will was a very dependable professor, and students had to earn their course grade in his classes. That was something I really liked about him,” Keiser continued. “I knew if a student got an A or a B in his class, they did really well and earned it, and that is something I really admired.”
Dr. Gregg Roman, professor and current chair, is grateful for the opportunity St. Amand’s gift supports.
“Dr. St. Amand is passionate about the education of our students. A gifted educator, he recognizes the importance of laboratory instruction and his gift will help us continue to strive for excellence in our delivery of introductory labs.”
As a first-year graduate student at the University of Tennessee, St. Amand met his then future wife when they happened to be in a university administrative office at the same time. She became the love of his life — as well as his colleague.
“I say we taught for 50 years: 25 for me and 25 for her. That adds up,” St. Amand said, chuckling.
The St. Amands doted on their students. “Georgia Ann and I felt that our students were our children. And we had many of them,” St. Amand said.
One such former student is Sarah Lacy of Lexington, Mississippi, who taught biology at Oxford High School for 39 years. As she furthered her education at Ole Miss, she served as a teaching assistant for the longtime professor.
“Dr. St. Amand is just one of my heroes, and so is Mrs. St. Amand,” Lacy said. “Dr. St. Amand was tough, but you learned so well from him. He taught you how to think and how to study a situation. He wouldn’t tell you the answer; he would make you evaluate what you knew to determine the answer for yourself.”
Lacy recalls how she felt when she heard of the St. Amands’ retirement.
“It was tragic to me because they were such great professors and great mentors. They were a little challenging and hard core, but they made their graduate assistants better because of it,” Lacy said.
Georgia St. Amand’s student and later teaching assistant, William Davenport of Henderson, Nevada, grew close to both professors as well.
“Mrs. St. Amand ran an extremely well-organized, well-taught and interesting course. She knew every student by name and when she interacted with you in class or lab, she made you feel like you were important and that the interaction would take as long as needed,” said Davenport, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Ole Miss.
“Her enthusiasm about what she was teaching; her precise, professional and engaging manner in the classroom; and her high expectations for her students lit the fire in me to pursue biology and, more importantly, to become an educator.”
Georgia St. Amand was active in the Ole Miss-Oxford community, where she served on the board of the Friends of the Museums and on the Walton-Young House Committee. She provided leadership as co-president of the Lafayette-Oxford-University Retired Teacher Association and was a 20-year volunteer with Meals on Wheels. She also was co-vice president of the Skipwith Historical and Genealogical Society and a member of the Orangeburgh German-Swiss Genealogical Society.
Today, Will St. Amand spends his time as a volunteer in the genealogy room of the Lafayette County-Oxford Public Library.
“I like to think genealogy is more of a mark of maturity, and that’s one of the things that sparked my interest,” said St. Amand, who enjoys helping others explore their roots.
Individuals and organizations can make contributions to the Georgia St. Amand Laboratory Teaching Assistant Award in Biology Endowment. Send a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the award’s name noted in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or online at https://give.olemiss.edu.
For more information on providing support to strengthen educational opportunities at Ole Miss, contact William Kneip, associate director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-2254.
By Kirsten Faulkner