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Ralph Duxbury

Todd Wellnitz with biology class
Dr. Todd Wellnitz, associate professor of biology, with biology students.

Quiet gift to have resounding effect on academic excellence


Ralph Duxbury is a modest man.

The 1943 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire alumnus made a not-so-modest $1 million gift to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation last year but wished to remain anonymous. Honoring that request was a challenge for Foundation staff because his gift will have immediate and lasting impact on the university, and celebrating it wouldn't be the same without him. When Duxbury made plans to leave another $1 million gift through his estate, he thankfully agreed to go public. 

Duxbury's gifts will help the UW-Eau Claire Foundation realize some long-sought-after goals, according to Kimera Way, Foundation president. Like Duxbury, the Foundation is just going public with its Power of Possible Centennial Campaign, which has been under way for about a year.

The announcement of Duxbury's gift has taken the campaign to the next level, leading the way toward the next century of academic excellence at UW-Eau Claire, Way said.

"Ralph's current and estate gifts speak to the heart of our Centennial Campaign," Way said. "He is investing in people through scholarships for students and support for faculty, and he is investing in two of our signature programs: choral music and the Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarships. What's more, his significant commitment to biology will create transformational opportunities for the immediate and long-term future."

Much of Duxbury's gift will benefit the department of biology. Duxbury believes science is a fundamental ingredient in sustaining an exceptional university, and he previously endowed one of the largest biology scholarships at UW-Eau Claire, Way said. His recent and future estate gifts will be used to create a new Biology Faculty Success Fund to help the university recruit and retain exceptional biology faculty and invest in their collaborative projects with other faculty and students in the "hard" sciences of chemistry, physics and astronomy. New faculty members often seek established laboratory space where they can continue their research and scholarly activities. Having such resources could put UW-Eau Claire in a favorable position to attract and retain the very brightest new educators who will follow in the university's tradition of mentoring and conducting research with undergraduate students, Way said.

Individual student success also has been important to Duxbury, who was an exceptional student himself, Way said. Over more than 20 years, he has contributed more than $250,000 to support Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarships at UW-Eau Claire, investing in the best and brightest students of all majors. Now, Duxbury's additional gifts will fully endow his WAES  fund and represent a significant investment in the WAES program at UW-Eau Claire, allowing other private gifts designated for this type of student to be directed to other awards, such as National Merit Scholarships.

Through Duxbury's gifts, a major endowment also is being created for UW-Eau Claire's choral music program. Annual income from the endowment will fund a pool of scholarships that can be used to recruit outstanding student musicians to UW-Eau Claire.

Duxbury grew up in Eleva, where he was the son of a drugstore owner. While attending UW-Eau Claire, he was the editor of the student newspaper, The Spectator, a member of the Science Club and president of the Lutheran Student Organization.

Duxbury graduated with a teaching degree, with plans to become a science teacher. Instead, he enlisted in the Air Force, serving as a bombardier. Upon his discharge, Duxbury became a parasitologist, conducting research on the role of parasites in malaria. He worked at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research outside Washington, D.C., for more than 30 years.

"Given the distance and his age, it is unlikely we will see Ralph back on campus," Way said. "The best we can do now is to celebrate a life well lived and a man large in generosity. We are most grateful to be able to help him articulate his vision for his legacy as an alumnus and donor." 

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"My career in biology is now in the distant past, but I hope to encourage today's students in their efforts in this important field of study."

      - Ralph Duxbury

The Power of Possible Centennial Campaign
Learn more about the Power of Possible Campaign here.

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