University of Mississippi Professor of Biology Wilbrod St. Amand loved his students and recognized the importance of resources in higher education, whether they support laboratories or professors and instructors.
In his estate, St. Amand left approximately $1 million to ensure there is support for all three: the largest part of the gift is designated for the St. Amand Biology Labs Endowment, another part is directed to establishing a new university-wide teaching award and the final part is earmarked for a laboratory teaching-assistant award in biology that he had previously created in memory of his wife, Georgia Ann, an assistant professor of biology.
“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 St. Amand in a 2019 interview.
UM Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Noel Wilkin said, “Science education has become more expensive to offer, and teaching efforts are bolstered by cutting-edge research in the discipline. The rising cost to excel at research and instruction is due to the rising cost of support, supplies, equipment and facilities.
“Biology is no exception. This gift will help us to continue offering high-quality education and conducting research in the field of biology.”
St. Amand died in January 2022 at 94 years old. He joined the Ole Miss faculty as an assistant professor of biology in fall 1958 and became a full professor, teaching until his 1984 retirement.
The St. Amand Biology Labs Endowment will provide income for annual supplies and upkeep for the department’s laboratories. The St. Amand Outstanding Teaching Award Endowment will yearly honor a non-tenure-track faculty member. The Georgia St. Amand Laboratory Teaching-Assistant Award will yearly provide a minimum of three teaching assistants each $2,000 for demonstrated excellence in instruction and teaching.
“If something is done well, then I think that individual deserves recognition,” said St. Amand, who in 1970, received the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teaching Award, which he touted as one of his greatest honors and the inspiration for his gift to establish the laboratory teaching-assistant award.
Provost Wilkin said, “I am pleased that the estate of Wilbrod St. Amand has established an endowment to enable us to expand the number of faculty we recognize and celebrate for outstanding teaching. Now, with the St. Amand and the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teaching Awards, all types of faculty are eligible for recognition.”
Recipients will be selected by the Office of the Provost based on a recommendation of a committee with representation from the College of Liberal Arts and all schools. The successful faculty member will receive a plaque and a monetary award of $10,000 to be presented annually at the Honors Day Convocation.
William Rhodes, a clinical assistant professor emeritus in UM’s Patterson School of Accountancy, serves as the executor of St. Amand’s estate and was his friend for 40 years.
“Dr. St. Amand really loved his interactions with his students. He felt that teaching was the most important responsibility of a faculty member,” Rhodes said. “Dr. St. Amand believed that you should take every interaction with students seriously because you don’t know what comment or kind word would light a candle — serving to build up and inspire someone. He loved people, life and nature.
“And, he loved Ole Miss, which is where he worked his entire life. Loyalty was very important to Dr. St. Amand, and his loyalty to this university could never be underestimated,” he continued. “That’s why the new teaching award in his name is to recognize those who have been on the faculty for at least eight years: That length of time would show loyalty to this institution.”
The St. Amands doted on their students.
“Georgia Ann and I felt that our students were our children. And we had many of them,” said the late professor, who had no biological children.
Sixue Chen, professor and chair of the Department of Biology, shared his thoughts on St. Amand’s legacy.
“Dr. St. Amand was a talented biology professor, who valued the importance of hands-on experiences for our biology students. His endowments will enable us to offer state-of-the-art laboratory courses and provide support to our dedicated teaching assistants. His legacy will have a lasting impact on our next generation of scientists, leaders and citizens,” the chair said.
St. Amand, a native of Old Town, Maine, was enrolled in the University of Maine and in its ROTC program when he was deployed as a Navy yeoman and served in the North Atlantic during the last months of World War II. He returned to the University of Maine to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in zoology in 1948.
He then pursued a Master of Science degree and a Doctor of Philosophy in biology from the University of Tennessee, where he met his wife, Georgia Ann, of Orangeburg, South Carolina, who was also a biologist. Upon finishing their degrees, the St. Amands were employed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Wilbrod joined the Army Reserves.
“Dr. St. Amand was the last of the great generation who grew up during the Depression,” Rhodes said. “He was very thrifty and would not spend any money on himself; he saved a lot. That’s how his generous gifting was made possible.”
St. Amand’s engagement was not limited to Ole Miss. He was a founding member of the Oxford Kiwanis Club, where he served as an officer and was involved in service projects. He helped organize the local Alzheimer Caregivers’ Support Group and assisted hundreds of individuals who were dealing with dementia. His efforts were recognized by the Mississippi Department of Health in 2009 with the Dorris Award for Caregiving. His community service was honored in 2013 when he was named Citizen of the Year of Oxford and Lafayette County.
St. Amand spent his retirement years as a volunteer in the genealogy room of the Lafayette County-Oxford Public Library, helping patrons discover their roots. He devoted efforts to documenting the cemetery records of every cemetery in Lafayette County.
He also was a proud veteran, involved in the local veterans’ organizations, and a reader at Veterans’ Day ceremonies of the names of veterans who died each year. St. Amand read four newspapers daily and clipped all obituaries of veterans, said Rhodes.
To make a gift to any of the three St. Amand endowments, send a check with the endowment’s name noted in the memo line, to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or online here: St. Amand Biology Labs Endowment, St. Amand Outstanding Teaching Award Endowment or the Georgia St. Amand Laboratory Teaching-Assistant Award Endowment.
For information on supporting the Department of Biology in the College of Liberal Arts, contact Delia Childers, associate director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-3086.
By Tina H. Hahn/UM Development