Fresno State's college of science, math gets $100,000 gift

The Fresno BeeJuly 9, 2012 

Fresno State received a $100,000 donation to support students in math and science, a boost for the College of Science and Mathematics that last year was at risk of being eliminated by budget cuts.

Fresno businesswoman and Fresno State alumna Tamsen Nichols Munger pledged $100,000 to establish an endowment for students majoring in geology, physics, mathematics or chemistry.

The Tamsen Nichols Munger Scholars Program will provide scholarships of up to $4,000 to one or two students each year.

In a news release from the university, Munger said she wanted students interested in the physical sciences to have opportunities similar to those she had at Fresno State. She graduated in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in geology.

Munger said the College of Science and Mathematics can play a crucial role in advancing research to find sustainable solutions for the Central Valley's agricultural-based economy and growing, urban population, according to the news release.

Munger declined an interview with The Bee, saying she was uncomfortable with the media attention.

Fresno State nearly lost a donation from Munger last year after the university's Academic Task Force proposed dissolving the College of Science and Mathematics and moving its programs to other colleges on campus to save an estimated $250,000. The proposal -- part of a list of recommendations to shave up to $2 million from the academic budget -- prompted her to reconsider giving to the college.

At a meeting of college faculty and alumni last November, Munger said she was planning a sizable donation -- but the gift was "in limbo" because of the proposal to dismantle the college and move math and science programs to the agriculture and engineering colleges.

However, the task force withdrew the proposal following months of outcry from students, alumni and faculty, who said the dramatic move would drive out faculty, deter some of the brightest students, undercut research and discourage employers from hiring graduates.

Munger retired in 2009 from Tamsen Munger Fine Gifts on North Blackstone Avenue. She spent more than 20 years building up the nationally known gallery specializing in aviation and maritime art.

Her gift is one of the largest to the College of Science and Mathematics since a $250,000 donation in June 2011 from the W.M. Keck Foundation, a Los Angeles-based philanthropic organization, to create a computational science center for undergraduate teaching and research.

The gift counts toward the Campaign for Fresno State, a campus-wide initiative to raise $200 million for scholarships, faculty, programs and facilities. As of May, the campaign had raised about $189 million; the June deadline was extended to the end of 2012 in anticipation of several forthcoming donations.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, or @hsomerville on Twitter.

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