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Betsy Fife endows $1.5 million gift to the School of Science in honor of chemistry chair emeritus

Jun 24, 2019
Science building
The School of Science at IUPUI is being enhanced by a $1.5 million gift from Betsy L. Fife in honor of her late husband, Wilmer K. Fife, a longtime professor in the chemistry department.Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

INDIANAPOLIS – The School of Science at IUPUI has received a $1.5 million planned gift from Betsy L. Fife. The gift will endow a chair within the chemistry department in honor of Fife’s late husband, Wilmer K. Fife.

“The School of Science is so grateful for the generosity of Dr. Betsy Fife in making this gift in honor of her husband, Dr. Wilmer K. Fife, who is so fondly remembered in the school for his commitment to the chemistry department,” Dean Simon J. Rhodes said. “Because Betsy is such a distinguished academic and researcher herself, we realize how thoughtful this gift is.”

The planned gift will support an endowed chair in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology for the purpose of recruiting, retaining or honoring a faculty member with significant scholarly accomplishments. This gift counts toward the $3 billion For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.

“This endowed chair will have great impact on all aspects of the mission of the department: it will facilitate faculty research success, it will enhance student achievement, and it will significantly improve the growing reputation of the department and the university,” Rhodes said.

Both Wilmer and Betsy Fife built their careers on the IUPUI campus. Betsy recalls that when Wil joined the chemistry department in 1971, it was a small but motivated group of researchers.

“Wil started right away to build the department and set the direction it should take,” she said. “He would be so impressed with where the department is now. The faculty today are doing really important and significant research.”

Betsy Fife received a Master of Science in nursing from the Indiana University School of Nursing at IUPUI in 1976 and then a Ph.D. in sociology from the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington in 1990. She is an emeritus member of the faculty of the School of Nursing at IUPUI. She taught nursing courses on the IUPUI campus and published widely on behavioral oncology to help families cope with the stresses of a cancer diagnosis.

Wilmer K. Fife received a B.S. in chemistry in 1955 from Case Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1960 from Ohio State University. He completed two fellowships at Harvard and Columbia universities and taught at Muskingum College. In 1971, he was recruited to chair the Department of Chemistry in the School of Science at IUPUI; he served as chair until 1980. He taught undergraduate students and advised a research group working on phase-managed organic synthesis and synthetic polymeric catalysts with enzyme-like properties. He published nearly 70 papers on his research and obtained several patents for Indiana University.

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