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A legacy for the future

"Bert was one of the most generous people I knew. And he was always looking to the future."

David Karpovich
H.H. Dow Endowed Professor of Chemistry,
Saginaw Valley State University

 

One day many years ago, SVSU Chemistry Professor Albert Plaush set off on a journey to Wayne State University with a few SVSU students in his small Pontiac station wagon. The students wanted to explore their options for graduate study, so he drove them there himself and arranged meetings with their prospective professors.

For 50 years, Bert dedicated his life to making a difference in his students’ future. He first arrived at SVSU in 1967 after earning his Ph.D. at Case Western University. He achieved a distinguished history of publications and presentations, and was a member of the American Chemical Society, The American Physical Society, Sigma Xi (The Scientific Research Society), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His students and colleagues knew and admired his excellence in his field, but even more memorable than that was the kind of person Bert was.

One of the students on that long-ago road trip was SVSU’s H.H. Dow Endowed Professor of Chemistry, David Karpovich. When remembering his mentor-turned-colleague, Dave says, “He was one of the most generous people I knew.” Dave is a lifetime resident of our region who graduated from SVSU, then went on to earn his Ph.D. at Michigan State, and eventually returned to become part of the Chemistry Department faculty at SVSU. In addition to Bert’s generosity and dedication to his students, Dave remembers his curiosity as one of his most notable traits.

“He read everything, and wanted to know about everything,” Dave recalls. It didn’t matter if it was in his field or not. “He was always looking to the future,” Dave said.

He didn’t lose his curiosity and his passion for teaching as he entered his eighties, and he wasn’t ready to stop being a force for learning and exploration, to stop looking to the future. Bert made an estate plan that included endowment funds supporting interdisciplinary collaboration, equipment purchases, and research for both students and faculty in the Chemistry department.

It is an exceptional achievement for a professor to teach and inspire students for 50 years. Though Bert passed away recently at the age of 83, his legacy at SVSU continues as students and faculty conduct experiments in the Chemistry lab named in his honor. And, his endowment could make possible research and discoveries another 50 years in the future and beyond, because he applied his forward thinking and thirst for knowledge and discovery to his estate plan.

Curious people always want to know what’s coming next. What a great legacy for an always-curious scientist to be part of exploring that unknown territory for generations to come!