$1-Million Commitment for Endowed Faculty Chair

Douglas and Maria Bayer Faculty Chair in Earth Sciences

January 04, 2008

Knox College's expanding environmental studies program recently received a major boost in the form of a new $1-million endowed faculty chair from Douglas L. and Maria Bayer of Bellevue, Washington. Douglas Bayer is a 1966 Knox graduate who recently retired from Microsoft Corporation.

Peter Schwartzman
Peter Schwartzman, chair of the environmental studies program, checks a demonstration prairie plot on the Knox campus; below, Doug '66 and Maria Bayer with Knox College President Roger Taylor, center.
Doug '66 and Maria Bayer with Roger Taylor

The Douglas and Maria Bayer Faculty Chair in Earth Sciences will begin supporting the new faculty position in earth sciences next fall.

"This generous support from the Bayer family will strengthen the Knox faculty and curriculum in an increasingly important field of study," said Knox College President Roger Taylor. "The Bayers recognize the value of the liberal arts and interdisciplinary study."

"Doug credits his experiences at Knox, especially physics professors Wayne Green and Herb Priestley, with teaching him how to think, not what to think," said Robert King, director of major and planned giving at Knox. Green is a professor emeritus of physics who taught from 1954 to 1989. Priestley, who died in 2005, taught from 1952 to 1982.

"Doug and Maria are funding this endowed chair in recognition of the contribution his Knox education has had on Doug?s life and to help make it possible for a professor in earth sciences to have an impact upon future generations of Knox students similar to the impact Professors Green and Priestley had upon him," King said.

A native of Chicago and graduate of Stephen T. Mather High School, Doug Bayer received a bachelor's degree in physics at Knox in 1966, and went on to earn both his master's degree and doctorate in nuclear physics at Michigan State University. At Knox, he joined the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and participated in the off-campus program at the Argonne National Laboratory. Bayer joined Microsoft in 1994, serving as a manager and director of software development, and most recently as a software security architect. Previously he spent 17 years in computer systems research for Bell Laboratories and later served as director of software development for The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation.

Earth sciences are a part of the environmental studies program at Knox -- an interdisciplinary program. "Knox has been planning for several years to expand environmental studies in the direction of geoscience," said Peter Schwartzman, associate professor and chair of environmental studies.

The ideal candidate for the position would be a multi-dimensional scholar with environmental interests, Schwartzman said. He is now reviewing applications for the position, which could be filled later this year.

Knox's environmental studies major was created in 2000. Currently, between 12 and 15 Knox students a year major in environmental studies, making it one of the top 10 majors in the curriculum.

"This field is getting more attention every day," Schwartzman said. "You can't turn on the TV or open the newspaper without seeing coverage of the environment." The field offers growing employment opportunities, Schwartzman added.

Existing geoscience resources at Knox include extensive mineral and fossil collections that originated with the work of Albert Hurd, who taught geology and other natural sciences from 1851 until 1906. Knox had a formal geology program from the 1940s until the 1980s, while the environmental studies program was created in the mid-1990s as an interdisciplinary initiative drawing on faculty from the natural and social sciences, arts, and humanities.

The Douglas and Maria Bayer Faculty Chair in Earth Sciences is the second endowed faculty chair announced at Knox during the current academic year. Last October, Knox received a $1-million commitment for the Richard P. and Sophia D. Henke Distinguished Chair. Mr. Henke is a retired physician and trustee of the College.

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 45 states and 44 nations. Knox's 'Old Main' is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.