Today@Sam Article

Unique Gift Establishes Endowed Professorship

Aug. 16, 2018
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton


Roland E. Black, Mardelle Atkins

Sam Houston State University continues to find innovative ways to grow for the benefit of students and faculty. A recent gift from Roland E. Black (’61), established a permanent fund for the university in the form of an endowed professorship. 

Created to enhance the quality of instruction and research, endowed professorships greatly assist the university’s efforts to attract and retain outstanding faculty and administrative staff, by providing salary supplements and professional development funding.

Black said he is proud to be able to endow the professorship at SHSU in the College of Science and Engineering Technology, and hopes others will be inspired to consider similar gifts to the university. 

“I have been speaking with leadership about ways to give to the biology department for years, and the idea of an endowed professorship struck me as unique,” Black said. “I want to encourage other alumni, foundations and corporations to do the same. There are many ways to grow our great university.” 

To be rewarded with an endowed professorship is considered a huge honor for any faculty member. SHSU has selected professor Mardelle Atkins to fill this prestigious position in the department of Biological Sciences. Atkins earned a B.S. in Genetics at Texas A&M University, then completed her doctoral studies at Baylor College of Medicine.

Atkins’ research at SHSU will investigate how altering gene regulatory networks can reprogram cells, primarily using the fruit fly as a model system. Atkins strives to understand how the gene networks that direct the development of organs are regulated, and how these networks are changed during tumor development. 

Darlene Andrews, director of donor relations at SHSU, explained that this new position will provide lively and cutting-edge teaching for students.

“This gift is a great example of how to impact multiple students at one time,” Andrews said.

Faculty and staff are excited about the potential advancement this gift brings to campus.

“I think this is an innovative way to be able to recruit faculty,” said Tamara Cook, professor and department chair of Biological Sciences. “An endowed professorship helps tremendously with research here on campus. All of the rapid advances that have happened in science recently are wonderful, however it makes it harder for research because of expenses. This endowment will help the new faculty hit the ground running with research from day one, which is great.”

Dean of the College of Science and Engineering Technology, John Pascarella, sees this new position as a one of many key pieces to growing the college in recent years.

“We are excited to have this endowed professorship on campus. This will be one of four new faculty positions and that is thanks in large part to our new building and the endowment,” Pascarella said. “We were out of lab space, so many professors would be here on a visiting basis for one-to-three years. With the building and this endowment, we were able to not only hire our new faculty, but they will have the lab space necessary for their research as well.” 

Along with the Roland E. Black Endowed Professorship in Biological Sciences, Black has also established the Roland Black Nursing Endowed Scholarship in order to recruit top-ranked students to SHSU’s nursing program.

Black’s other philanthropic interests at SHSU include supporting the Alumni Association through sponsorships at their various events, purchasing season tickets for the Bearkat football games and supporting an array of other events and endowments campus wide. Black also donated a rosewood Weber Grand Piano to the university and served as the President of the Alumni Association Board from 2016-2017. All of this while having established a professional practice in Dallas as an OB-GYN physician, from which Black has since retired. 

As someone with “Bearkat blood,” Black says this endowment is “a small measure of gratitude” to the university for what it has given him, his family and the community for many years.

“I wanted to do something in memory and honor of my family’s SHSU legacy,” Black said. “I was the fifth in my immediate family to graduate from the university. My mother and father graduated in the 20s, my brothers graduated in the 50s and I came along in 1961. My family moved here in 1930, we love Huntsville, we love Sam, and I wanted to come up with a way to honor our roots.”

For more information on endowed professorship giving, contact Darlene Andrews at 936-294-3623. 

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