“Our education has transformed our lives in countless ways,” says Georgene Botyos Herschbach ’61. She and her husband, Dudley, both earned Ph.D.s in chemistry from Harvard and both enjoyed long careers at the university—Georgene in administration and Dudley as a Nobel Prize–winning professor of chemistry.
“Without financial aid and the opportunity to earn money through student jobs, we could not have gone to college,” says Georgene.
As a “thank you” for the scholarship support they received as undergraduates and on the occasion of their 50th reunions last year, the Herschbachs set up scholarships at Wheaton and at Dudley’s alma mater, Stanford University.
The Drs. Georgene Botyos Herschbach ’61 and Dudley Herschbach Hon Sc.D. ’95 Endowed Scholarship helps several Wheaton students pursue their education each year.
“At this moment in our national history, when families are struggling financially, it seems especially fitting to provide scholarship aid to Wheaton students who, without help, could not attend the college,” says Georgene.
Georgene fell in love with chemistry as a high-school student in Teaneck, N.J. “Miss Buche, who taught chemistry at my high school, was among my liveliest teachers,” recalls Georgene. “Her class was quite challenging, so it naturally drew a collection of eager, rather nerdy students, who loved both the challenges and rewards of science.”
As one of only a few girls in the class, however, Georgene felt like something of an outsider. The experience convinced her to attend a women’s college, “where it was culturally acceptable for a woman to pursue science.”
At Wheaton, Georgene majored in chemistry under the mentorship of Professor of Chemistry Emerita Bojan Jennings, who urged her to pursue a Ph.D. “The concept hadn’t crossed my mind until Bojan raised it,” she says. Though Georgene had an enticing admission packet from the University of Hawaii, Jennings persuaded her to attend Harvard. It was an auspicious decision.
Georgene completed her Ph.D. in organic chemistry, which launched a rewarding 27-year career in Harvard’s administration. She held positions as registrar, associate dean for academic programs, and dean for administration and finance. Georgene retired from Harvard in 2009, though she still serves as a consultant to the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
At Harvard, Georgene also met and married Dudley, then a newly appointed professor of physical chemistry. The couple had two daughters, and Dudley went on to a distinguished academic career, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986.
A member of the extended Wheaton family—“by marriage,” says Georgene—Dudley received an honorary degree from Wheaton at Commencement in 1995.
The couple holds Wheaton and the liberal arts in high regard. “The small liberal arts college, where undergraduates are the focus of attention of the faculty, offers students the enormous benefit of personalized instruction and mentoring by faculty. That can be a life-changing experience,” says Georgene. Through their scholarship, the Herschbachs ensure that future Wheaton students will have access to similar life-changing academic experiences.