Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

A boost for budding scientists: Jennings family looks to the future

For 40 years, chemistry professor Bojan Hamlin Jennings taught and mentored science students at Wheaton, always with the staunch support of her husband, Addison. Now she is extending that legacy by establishing two endowed funds to support today’s students.

Chemistry professor Bojan Hamlin Jennings in 2008

Chemistry professor Bojan Hamlin Jennings in 2008

The Jennings Family Endowed Scholarship will be awarded to an academically talented first-year student who intends to major in chemistry, biochemistry, physics or biology. Bojan chose to support financial aid partly because she herself benefited from scholarships—first at a private high school and then at Bryn Mawr College.

The Jennings Family Prize, awarded separately, will be given at spring convocation to the most academically stellar rising senior who is majoring in one of the natural sciences. Bojan intends the award to add distinction to the recipient’s résumé or graduate school applications. A stipend accompanying the prize will help the student fund an academic endeavor, such as a research project—a fitting honor, because Bojan pioneered the Wheaton tradition of student-faculty research. She won Wheaton’s first research grants in 1959 and conducted all of her research with students.

Bojan named the two funds after the family in order to acknowledge the contributions and support of her late husband. In the early ’50s, the couple and their children, Hamlin and Nora, moved to Norton from New York City so Bojan could teach at Wheaton and earn her doctorate at Harvard.

Addison had worked at the Arthur Andersen accounting firm in New York, and according to Hamlin, the company was loath to see him go.

“We have a family letter from Arthur Andersen himself, indicating that my father would always be welcomed back,” Hamlin said. “But he followed my mom and established an accounting firm in Taunton.”

Bojan said Addison was “absolutely wonderful” in the way he encouraged her career. “I couldn’t have done it all without his moral support.”

The couple’s daughter, Nora, graduated from Wheaton in 1971. Years later, granddaughter Ashley, Hamlin’s daughter, followed suit.

“We are definitely a Wheaton family!” said Ashley Jennings ’07, who was encouraged to come to Wheaton by Professor of Chemistry Elita Pastra-Landis ’69, a former student of Bojan’s. “She became my mentor, and she still is.”

A biology major at Wheaton, Ashley is completing a master’s degree in marine biology at Boston University, studying how sharks navigate and detect the odors of their prey. She said that Wheaton prepared her well for graduate study.

“I look back at Wheaton as one of the best times in my life,” she said. “Going to a large university for graduate study made me realize that I couldn’t have succeeded as well as I did as an undergrad without the personalized attention I got from Wheaton’s professors and staff. That was a huge advantage for me.”

Ashley’s father, Hamlin, who helped his mother “brainstorm the possibilities” for the endowed funds, believes that philanthropic support for Wheaton “is essential for its survival.” He hopes the funds will continue to grow through the contributions of family members and others who wish to honor his parents.

Bojan and Addison have paved the way.

“I feel good about the scholarship and the prize,” Bojan said. “I hope they do what I would do if I were still at Wheaton—encourage talented students to go into science.”

Photo by Michael Dwyer