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When Bonny Kellermann ‘72 attended her 10th reunion, it was customary for only the 25th, 40th, and 50th reunion classes to present class gifts. Kellermann and her classmates were surprised and impressed when the class of 1977 broke with tradition and presented a fifth reunion gift.

The next day, Kellermann teamed up with classmates Linda Mayeda, Paul Levy, and Steven Henry to begin planning a class gift to be presented at their 15th reunion. As students of the Vietnam War era, social consciousness was a value that resonated with much of her class. “We thought that if we could sponsor Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program projects that had some kind of social benefit, that would be particularly meaningful to our generation of students,” she says.

The result was the Class of 1972 UROP fund. The initial response was so positive the class decided to make it an endowed fund. From its 1986 inception to October 2002, the fund accumulated $186,502 from 415 donors, and it now supports an average of six student projects annually.

Equally impressive is the range of research topics the fund has sponsored. A sampling of recent projects includes research on measuring mutations that cause colon cancer, arsenic mobility in a Bangladeshi aquifer, programmable genotoxins, Parkinson’s disease, and development of a device to aid victims of stroke.

“Periodically we get feedback when a student writes and says how much he or she valued the opportunity to pursue that project because of how meaningful it was,” says Kellermann.

One 2001 recipient wrote to say that her experience had been so positive she had decided to continue the work as a graduate student. And one of the fund’s earliest recipients, Susan E. Murcott ‘90, SM ‘92, is now a lecturer at MIT who continues to collaborate with her UROP professor, Donald R. F. Harleman, SM ‘47, ScD ‘50. “I’m very grateful to UROP, and I’m also grateful that it continues to fund my students,” says Murcott. “I think it’s a great program.”

Building on the success of its UROP fund, the Class of 1972 has since added two additional funds: a scholarship fund in 1989 and a fund for educational innovation in 1997. “Our objective has been to try to provide opportunities that enable people to make gifts in ways that are meaningful to them,” explains Kellermann.

To establish a new project, contact Steve McAlister at 617-452-3895 or stevemca@mit.edu. For a list of current projects, visit http://web.mit.edu/giving/how/class/classprojects.html/.

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