Bowdoin will be expanding co-curricular opportunities in physics and other natural sciences because of funds bequeathed to the College by former Physics Professor Emeritus Elroy “Roy” LaCasce Jr. ’44, who passed away in September 2015. While the fund primarily endows a chair—LaCasce Family Professor of Natural Sciences Stephen G. Naculich—it also opens up a pathway for the College to hire a new tenure-track professor in any department.

Endowed chairs provide a principal. From this sum, interest pays the costs associated with the salary and benefits of the professor that holds that chair.

“[The funding] really expands the opportunities and if physics can’t use [it], then [the money] goes to other natural sciences,” said Professor of Physics and Chair of Physics Department Dale A. Syphers. “So it’s definitely going to be a boon for our department and other departments may see a boon as well.”

In addition to endowing a chair, the donation included specifications that any excess funds be used “at the discretion of the physics department faculty in consultation with the Dean for Academic Affairs to support and enhance the education of Bowdoin physics majors.” Its suggested uses include funding speakers, workshops, opportunities for exposure to career opportunities, support for undergraduate summer research in the form of LaCasce Fellowships, scholarship aid and funding for travel to conferences.

Syphers is excited about the new funding, which he said will enrich educational opportunities and student experiences. He said funding may first be used to replace and supplement equipment in the physics department’s machine shop, which supports research in several of the College’s departments.
“Any funds beyond the amount for student projects and research and summer research and things like that will be used to fund scholarships,” Syphers said.

He added that LaCasce was particularly interested in providing funding to enable students currently on work-study to “spend [their] full time learning physics” but said that the department had only recently begun discussions with the Office of Financial Aid about this prospect.

Syphers noted that endowed chairs typically receive benefits above those of a typical professor.

“Generally there are some little extra things,” he said. “You might get a little research fund or something associate with it.”

LaCasce had partially endowed the chair in 2002, but included enough funding in his will to fully endow it.

In an email to the Orient, Director of News and Media Relations Doug Cook declined to provide the exact amount of LaCasce’s donation out of “respect [for LaCasce’s] wish not to draw attention to himself or his support of Bowdoin.”

Because the endowed chair opens up funds that were previously in use, the College is now looking to create a new tenure-track faculty position. All departments are eligible to apply to be granted this new position through a standardized application process “in the context of the college’s needs.”

Syphers believes the physics department has a good chance at the position, although the College has not made any decisions.