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Margerums establish fund for student researchers

By Kari VanDerVeen
July 17, 2011

Dale and Sonya Pedersen Margerum '52 recently provided a generous gift to St. Olaf that will support student-faculty research.

When Sonya Pedersen Margerum graduated from St. Olaf College in 1952, she was a chemistry and biology major on her way to work for the Ames Lab of the Atomic Energy Commission at Iowa State University.

By the time she retired 52 years later, she had earned a master's degree in political science and public administration from Purdue University and served for more than two decades as mayor of West Lafayette, Indiana, where she oversaw a multimillion dollar river redevelopment plan, created a strategic plan for the city in partnership with Purdue University, and developed a major research park.

This lifelong devotion to science, political science, and government service — which she shares with her husband, Dale, a chemistry professor at Purdue University for 54 years — prompted the Margerums to establish an endowed fund for St. Olaf students who want to participate in research projects with faculty.

The Sonya Pedersen Margerum and Dale W. Margerum Endowment in Science, Political Science, and Government Service, fully endowed with a generous gift of $150,000, will support student-faculty collaborative research as part of the college's Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program.

"My goal is to encourage students who want to do research in science or political science to become more proficient in their professional careers as well as serve the public interest," says Sonya Margerum, who was a member of the St. Olaf Board of Regents for 12 years.

Although Dale Margerum didn't attend St. Olaf, he wanted to increase research opportunities for students on the Hill because his own undergraduate research experiences at Southeast Missouri State University played an important role in stimulating his interest in and knowledge of chemistry. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry from Iowa State University and teach at Purdue University. Before retiring in 1999, he supervised nearly 100 doctoral students who earned their degree under his tutelage, wrote more than 250 papers, and received many prestigious awards.

Through their generosity, the Margerums, who have three sons — one of them a St. Olaf graduate — and remain active members of the West Lafayette community, are giving current and future Oles the opportunity to experience hands-on learning.

The impact of the Margerums' gift is substantially increased as a result of a dollar-for-dollar match by the college through the Strategic Initiative Match, a program that provides matching funds for certain gifts above $50,000 that support the college's strategic plan. Because of this match, the Margerums' gift will support two student research positions each year.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or