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Smiling Oregon State recipients and donors celebrating and showing off their award certificates during a luncheon.

Microbiology alumni create scholarships to support science students

By Tom Henderson

Students gather and celebrate at the 2023 microbiology donors luncheon.

Paul Kenis founded the California Wolf Center. Matthew Bacho helped confront AIDS. Deb Bellinghausen supervised a lab combatting periodontic diseases.

All of their professional journeys started as students at the Department of Microbiology at Oregon State University. Now they are among the alumni who want to show their appreciation with financial donations to the department.

"I have a very strong affinity for that department because we have a lot of memories there," said Bellinghausen. "This was part of me paying it forward for all of the help that I received while I was a student at Oregon State."

Matthew Bacho '92

Headshot of Matthew Bacho

The Matthew A. Bacho Scholarship in Microbiology provides scholarships for microbiology and biohealth sciences graduate and undergraduate students with demonstrated financial needs.

Recipients can thank a National Geographic article.

"When I was in high school in Eugene, I was thinking about what I would study after graduation," said Bacho, B.S. '92. "History was kind of my favorite subject, but I wasn't sure what I would do with a degree in history. I wasn't keen on teaching."

Then he chanced across a National Geographic article about the pathogenesis of HIV/AIDS. "They had a pretty good background section on human immunology," he said. "I thought that was cool. I quickly found out it's a subdiscipline of microbiology."

It gave his undergraduate years at Oregon State a distinct focus. "A lot of freshmen don't know what they want to do, but I had a decent idea, and I stuck with it," he said.

Bacho found more than an academic focus at Nash Hall. He also found affordable living at Heckart Lodge, a co-op just down the street. "Many of the friends that I made there are still friends to this day," he said.

After graduation, he began working for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. His main focus was on HIV/AIDS. "The highlight of my time in the lab was that one of the compounds we looked at actually went on to be approved by the FDA for HIV," he said.

The compound prevents HIV from entering cells. His subsequent work included the regulatory management of immunosuppressive drugs like cyclosporine (used to treat patients if their bodies reject an organ transplant).

His final job at the FDA was helping enforce laws regulating clinical trials. He retired in 2021 after more than 28 years with the agency. Although only 51 years old at the time, Bacho said his lifelong struggle with retinitis pigmentosa was a deciding factor. The genetic disorder causes loss of vision, including trouble seeing at night and decreasing peripheral vision.

Bacho said he is glad to still be young enough to meet the recipients of his scholarship.

"I had a great experience at Oregon State," he said. "I began thinking about starting a scholarship a few years ago in microbiology, partly as a way to give back."

He received a Mark H. Middlekauf Scholarship during his senior year at Oregon State. The scholarship was created by Ruth Tyson to honor her brother, who received his degree in bacteriology at Oregon State in 1916 before dying in World War I.

Bacho decided he wanted to create a scholarship while he was still relatively young so he could meet the recipients.

"A lot of people start scholarships when they're older and have more financial means," he said. "The cool thing is that I had financial means and was still young enough and could still enjoy seeing people receive that money. I'm pretty happy about that."

Bacho said he hopes the students who receive his scholarship enjoy Oregon State as much as he did. "I really treasured my experience there at Oregon State. It led me to my career."

Debbie Bellinghausen '79

A headshot of Debbie Bellinghausen.

The Debbie S. Bellinghausen Microbiology Student Support Fund supports undergraduate or graduate students in financial need. Support can include, but is not limited to, travel for professional development, collaborative research projects and scholarship support.

"Like a lot of students back then and now, I paid my way through school through loans, savings, work/study money during graduate school from my professor," said Bellinghausen, M.S. '84 and B.S. '79. "We have a strong belief that getting an education is very important, and if there's any way to pay that forward and help someone along the way, that's the best way I can show my appreciation."

Bellinghausen has strong family connections to Oregon State. She met her husband Mike when he was a microbiology student. He was getting his master's degree under Raymond Seidler while she was working in the lab as a research assistant. Bellinghausen continued in the department, receiving her master's degree in 1984.

The couple's daughter Stephanie majored in biology at Oregon State and went on to veterinary school in Scotland where she now practices.

Bellinghausen traces her professional roots to her childhood as part of a farm family in Ontario, Oregon. "I've always loved biological sciences," she said. "Oddly enough, I started off as a pre-pharmacy major. I realized it wasn't really my thing. I took a microbiology course as part of my curriculum, and that's when I fell in love with it."

There is a natural connection to microbiology and food, she added. "There's a lot of interaction between the microbiology department and the food science department so it was easy to fall in love with microbiology," she said.

With an interest in dairy microbiology, her main professor in microbiology was William Sandine. Sandine taught in the department from 1959 to 1996. He became known for his research on fermentation, leading to improvements in cheese and other dairy products.

"Getting to work in his lab and getting to know some of the grad students and some of the work they were doing in Tillamook and later the wine industry, it was just a fun place to be," Bellinghausen said.

Her own career took her to Seattle where she worked for a company that researched animal probiotics. When she supervised the lab dealing with periodontic diseases, she was introduced to clinical research.

"It opened a whole new world that I hadn't thought about and enabled me to use my background in microbiology," she said. "I worked in clinical research both in diagnostic medical devices and small molecules and biologics."

As she nears retirement, Bellinghausen loves the thought of helping students. "It's great to see all the kids excited about their careers,” she said. “It made me pleased and happy to know that I could help them continue with their education.”

Smiling Oregon State recipients and donors celebrating and showing off their award certificates during a luncheon.

Award recipients gather at the 2023 microbiology donors luncheon to celebrate together. One of the scholarships currently available include the Paul and Judith Kenis Student Travel Endowment Fund in Microbiology.

Paul Kenis '67

The Paul and Judith Kenis Student Travel Endowment Fund in Microbiology supports travel expenses for professional development for undergraduate or graduate microbiology students.

Although he studied microbiology at Oregon State, Paul Kenis, M.S. '67, is known for his work with much larger organisms. He and his wife Judy started the California Wolf Center in Julian in 1977 and ran it for the next 20 years.

Starting with just two North American gray wolves, the couple set about teaching people about the importance of wolves in the ecosystem. They also bred endangered Mexican wolves to return the wild wolves to their natural habitat.

"I kind of got away from microbiology to play with the wolves for a few years," Kenis explained.

Meanwhile, he also put his education in microbiology in service to the U.S. Navy as a civilian researcher for 27 years. He started working for the Navy shortly after receiving his master's degree in microbiology in 1967.

The Navy gave him a solid professional home, he said. "I lived happily ever after, and I didn't have to go to Vietnam."

Kenis was born in Portland but grew up in suburban Los Angeles. He went to Cal Poly Pomona near Los Angeles for his undergraduate studies after his parents moved to Covina, California.

"I was always interested in science," he said. "I had animals. I had pigeons. I had aquariums and everything. It was kind of natural for me, so I majored in biology and minored in chemistry at Cal Poly."

One of his professors at Cal Poly knew Richard Morita at Oregon State. Morita was a faculty member in microbiology and oceanography at Oregon State University from 1962 to 1988 and helped Kenis get a fellowship to cover his tuition and come to Corvallis for graduate work.

"Dr. Morita took good care of me," Kenis remembered. "He was a great man."

After graduation, Kenis began working for the Navy almost as a fluke. He thought about going into the public health service, but his parents saw in the phone book that the Navy had a microbiology lab in Pasadena.

The California Wolf Center was a nonprofit, and the Navy didn't pay him enough to start the endowment. Kenis said students receiving money from the endowment benefit from his decision to invest in apartments.

That money should keep flowing, he said. He has made provisions in his will for the endowment to continue even after he's gone. Oregon State deserves the support, he said.

"They were really just nice people," he said. "I never met any jerks. The campus was very beautiful. Corvallis is a unique place. It's so very positive. I just have wonderful memories from the experience."

Mary Ann Matzke

Headshot of Mary Ann Matzke

The Mary Ann and Gordon Matzke Endowed Pre-Health Scholarship Fund provides scholarships for undergraduate students majoring in biohealth sciences.

While many donors are inspired to give because of fond memories of being students at Oregon State, Mary Ann Matzke is different. While her memories are no less fond, they stem from being a staff member rather than a student.

She worked as an adviser, and later head advisor, at the College of Science from 1987 to 2012.

"As often happens, academic advising was a career that I fell into, but it became a calling for me as I felt like it used skills I’d been acquiring my entire life," she said.

Her life started in a small town in Oklahoma where her father was a local physician. She studied zoology and pre-med at Oklahoma State University. After meeting her husband Gordon, her plans changed.

"I went with him to Syracuse University where I earned my master’s in population biology and evolution," said Matzke. "We then went off to the Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania where I assisted him in his research for his Ph.D. in geography relating to the interaction of human populations and wildlife."

Returning to Oklahoma State University, she took an advising job in the College of Arts and Sciences. "I found that I really liked it," she said. "Upon our move to Corvallis, after spending a few years home with children, I saw an ad for an advising job in the College of Science at Oregon State University. I was fortunate enough to get that job."

She was equally fortunate, she said, to have Dean Fred Horne and Associate Dean Dick Thies as mentors.

"At that time, professional advisors at Oregon State were not common," she said. "The health professions advising center that Dean Horne established with Chere Pereira, chief premedical advisor, Shelly Murphy, and myself was a new idea in the college."

For the first 15 years of her career, she advised students planning to enter health professions. "Those fields always held interest for me due to the number of medical professionals in my family," Matzke said. "I thoroughly enjoyed seeing students develop throughout their careers at Oregon State and eventually achieve their dreams.

She also spent a couple of years advising College of Business students under Clara Horne, the head advisor in the college. "This cross-college experience informed my later advising in the College of Science," she said.

For the last 10 years of her career, she served as head advisor in the College of Science -- coordinating the advising, student recruitment and orientation services. She was also responsible for overseeing the scholarship program.

"This is where I saw the impact that a scholarship can make in a student’s life," Matzke said. "One of my mentors was Janine Trempy, professor in microbiology, and associate dean in the College of Science."

About the time she retired, a new major, biohealth sciences, was created in microbiology for students interested in entering a health profession.

"This seemed like a good place to establish a scholarship that would benefit the kinds of students I advised during my career," said Matzke.

Her husband Gordon was a faculty member, advisor and department chair in the geography department at Oregon State.

"He always supported my career and was a constant source of advice and encouragement," she said. "I’m happy that we could make this contribution in both of our names and that it will support students pursuing health professions for many years to come."