FEATURE — Winter 2003
   

 
Partnering for the Betterment of the Community
Throughout its 150-year history, Washington University has collaborated with many local cultural and scientific institutions; over time, relationships have changed and grown, yet the mission has stayed the same—to form stronger partnerships for community enrichment.

Since its humble beginnings in 1853, Washington University has been intertwined with St. Louis. Over the last 150 years, changes to both the University and the surrounding area have been significant and profound.

During the University's milestone year, it is appropriate to reflect on some of the productive partnerships that Washington University has forged with local cultural and scientific institutions. Among those highlighted, although by no means an exhaustive list, are the Danforth Plant Science Center, Missouri Botanical Garden, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Science Center, and Saint Louis Zoo.

Doctoral candidate Allison Miller (center) researches Spondias purpurea (jocotes). Miller is advised by Barbara Schaal (left), the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences, and both collaborate with scientists at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Peter Raven (right) is the director of the garden and the Engelmann Professor of Botany at the University. The three exemplify the long-standing connections between the University and the garden.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton believes these collaborations benefit both town and gown. "St. Louis is blessed with many great cultural institutions having long and strong traditions. Washington University is privileged to enjoy the benefits from these organizations. They provide many important opportunities for our students, faculty, and staff," Wrighton says.

Whether undergraduates in architecture studios design structures for a primate house and a cage for birds of prey at the Saint Louis Zoo or a graduate student in Arts & Sciences works with a University professor and collaborators at the Missouri Botanical Garden to study jocotes (small fruit native from Central Mexico to northern South America), the University repeatedly has earned its reputation as an institution that forges partnerships, fosters projects that benefit the community, and supports students and faculty in relationships with outside organizations. Looking to the future, even greater possibilities for collaboration exist with these organizations and others, as technology transfer and start-up enterprises grow from initiatives by University faculty-scientists.

Connecting Through Botanical Research

Founded in 1859 by Henry Shaw, the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) is the oldest botanical garden in the United States and is a contemporary of Washington University. The two institutions share a legacy of some of the most active botanical research in the world.

This affiliation can be traced to George A. Engelmann, a faculty member in the University's short-lived Scientific School, who was also a physician, pioneer botanist, and scientific adviser to Shaw in the development of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Later, in 1879, Sylvester Waterhouse, a professor of Greek, urged Shaw to endow a professorship in botany at Washington University. After extensive negotiations, Shaw rewrote his will in 1885 to endow the professorship and to help establish a School of Botany at the University. Shaw required, however, that the professorship be held by the garden's director or the person next in rank.

William Trelease became the first Engelmann Professor of Botany in 1885, as well as becoming the first director of the Missouri Botanical Garden after Shaw's death in 1889. In 1895, the School of Botany conferred its first student Ph.D. on Isabel Mulford; according to University Archives, over the next 20 years, 19 of the 21 research doctorates the University conferred were in botany.

Although the Shaw School of Botany closed in 1950, the link between the University and the Botanical Garden was never severed. The relationship blossomed when, in 1971, Peter Raven came to St. Louis as the garden's director and as the Engelmann Professor of Botany at the University. Indeed, his appointment marked the beginning of a new era. Raven and several members of his research staff, who are adjunct faculty members at the University, have been integral in the revitalization of research, educational, and display programs at the garden, which now cover the world, with particular concentration on Latin America and Africa.

"We have more than 40 Ph.D.-level scientists at the garden, and they have contributed a great deal to graduate programs. About half a dozen have joint appointments, and most have contributed in one way or the other to graduate and sometimes undergraduate education," Raven says. "In the case of the Missouri Botanical Garden-Washington University relationship, it has been possible to maintain strength with mutual respect over the years, and our relationship is the envy of many similar pairs of institutions around the United States and throughout the world."

Creating a "Bio-belt"

When ground was broken in August 1999 for the new $135 million Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur, Missouri, Raven joined Danforth Plant Science Center director Roger Beachy, former U.S. Senator John Danforth, Chancellor Emeritus William H. Danforth, and Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton to help inaugurate the future of plant biology. The center is the product of an innovative partnership that joins the Missouri Botanical Garden, Monsanto Company, Purdue University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Missouri-Columbia, and Washington University.
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center director Roger Beachy (left), now center president, meets with Chancellor Emeritus William Danforth and former U.S. Senator John Danforth at the center's groundbreaking on August 2, 1999.

The center is named for the late Donald Danforth, former president of Ralston Purina Co. and father of William and John Danforth, Dorothy Miller, and the late Donald Danforth, Jr. The center's mission is to lead the world in finding solutions to global hunger, via research to reduce plant disease, to enhance nutrition in foods, and to provide training for scientists from developing countries. The center envisions the Midwest's agricultural heartland as a "bio-belt." Together with a planned small-business incubator, the Danforth Center will become the focal point for the region's growing cluster of biotech endeavors.

Beachy, one of the world's foremost plant scientists, was named the center's first director and later center president. He also holds a professorship in the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences, similar to Raven's appointment with the University through the Missouri Botanical Garden.

"One of the benefits of the relationship between the center and the University is the encouragement of collaborative research between our scientists and those at the medical school, as well as the scientists on the Hilltop Campus," Beachy says. "Another benefit is to collaborate in training the next generation of graduate students and postdoctoral associates. We also are committed to collaborating with educators in the School of Business and School of Law to forge an enhanced training program that crosses disciplines and provides opportunities for learning in basic science, technology, and applications in law and business."

Though the center is only slightly more than four years old, success has come early: Washington University and Monsanto Company were issued patent 6,608,241 for a technique that protects crops from devastating viral diseases that currently threaten or harm many important food crops. The inventors on the patent application, filed in 1985, were Beachy, a Monsanto chief technology officer, and a former Monsanto research scientist.

Extending Science Education

Founded by biology Professor Sarah Elgin in 1990, one of the University's most visible community outreach efforts is Science Outreach, which connects K-12 teachers with faculty at the University and its partners: the St. Louis Science Center, Saint Louis Zoo, and the Missouri Botanical Garden. The goal is to enhance science teaching through hands-on investigative methods, combining informal education and classroom learning. Since 1997, the Science Outreach office has been expertly directed by Victoria May, and programs now reach more than 22,000 students and 2,100 teachers annually.

In November 2003, students from the Millstadt Consolidated School in Illinois attended a session on cell activities during a field trip to the St. Louis Science Center. The session was part of a genetics unit developed by Washington University and the St. Louis Science Center.

Another Millstadt Consolidated School student takes part in a Science Outreach program at the St. Louis Science Center. The goal of Science Outreach is to enhance science teaching through hands-on investigative methods, combining informal education and classroom learning. Programs now reach more than 22,000 students and 2,100 teachers annually.

In 2001, Science Outreach was granted a National Institutes of Health Secondary Education Partnership Award (SEPA) of nearly $900,000 over three years. The grant was the first SEPA award pairing a university with informal science institutions in this type of collaboration. Examples of specific programs include "Genetics and Human Affairs" at the St. Louis Science Center, "Animal Behavior and Social Interactions" at the Saint Louis Zoo, and "Human Impact on Ecosystems" at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

In other efforts, collaborations between the University, St. Louis Science Center, Saint Louis Zoo, and Missouri Botanical Garden have yielded approximately $17 million directed into the St. Louis community for science education.

"We have been able to get some major national grants to be a long-term player in the process of education, and we were able to obtain these grants because we have been partnering with each other during the past few years," says Douglas King, president and chief executive officer of the St. Louis Science Center. "The institutions have repositioned themselves into this natural collaboration between the people who are at the pinnacle of education and research—the University—and those of us with a public mission."

Impacting the Arts and Creating Museums

Forest Park is more than one of the largest municipal parks in the world and a next-door neighbor of the University's campuses; it is also home to several important institutions linked to the University.

In particular, the Saint Louis Art Museum (the first municipally supported art museum in the nation) owes much of its existence to a free drawing class offered by Halsey C. Ives, an art professor at the University, in 1875. The class became so popular that it created a need for a space for larger classes as well as for a collection of artworks. In 1879, the University established the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts as a department.

The museum and school were made possible by a pledge from University co-founder Wayman Crow, a local businessman who wanted to memorialize his deceased son who had been an admirer of the arts. Dedicated in 1881, the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts was located at 19th and Locust streets and was intended to commence a new era in the aesthetic, educational, and economic life of the city. Due to expanding collections, by 1900 the museum and the school needed a new structure. After negotiations between the city and the University, in 1906, the museum—which was still a University department—moved to the 1904 World's Fair Palace of Fine Art's permanent structure, and the school moved to the Hilltop Campus. Within a few years, the University and the museum, which is now the Saint Louis Art Museum, separated their legal connection because of municipal tax considerations. Today, the intentions of the original founders are embodied in the University's Gallery of Art and its extensive collection.

Sesquicentennial Associations
A review of the people who make up the University's Sesquicentennial Commission reveals the names of individuals who represent St. Louis' premier scientific and cultural institutions, including W. Randolph Adams, president and executive director of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra; Robert R. Archibald, president, Missouri Historical Society; Roger N. Beachy, president, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center; Brent Benjamin, director, Saint Louis Art Museum; Jeffrey P. Bonner, president and chief executive officer of the Saint Louis Zoo; Ron Himes, B.S. '78, producing director of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company; and Douglas R. King, president and chief executive officer of the St. Louis Science Center. These institutions—and others—share a long-standing affinity with the University.

The University also has connections with other institutional residents of Forest Park. For instance, the late Arthur Monsey, a University professor with associations in both engineering and architecture, served as construction consultant for the Saint Louis Zoo, working on projects such as the Bird Garden, Children's Zoo, Elephant House, Lakeside Café, Living World, and Zoo Hospital. In addition, alumnus Edouard Mutrux, an architect and former University professor, designed the zoo's main entrance. And, the Jefferson Memorial, located at the site of the main entrance to the 1904 World's Fair, is home to the Missouri Historical Society. The society and various University departments have collaborated over the years on joint programs. A recent one was a conference titled "The Coldest War in the Cold War: The Blood and Politics of the Korean Conflict, 1950-1953," sponsored by the International Writers Center (now the Center for the Humanities) in Arts & Sciences and the Historical Society.

Of these and future collaborations, Chancellor Wrighton says: "We have been fortunate to enjoy substantial partnerships with many St. Louis organizations that have resulted in a better environment for everyone in St. Louis. Having many important cultural institutions close to our campus, including being adjacent to Forest Park, provides a very special reward for the University community. We value very much the setting in which we find ourselves and look forward to working with others to strengthen our community."

C.B. Adams, a free-lance writer based in St. Charles, Missouri, contributed to this article.