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Preparing the minds of the next generation of microbiologists through scholarships

“Prepare your minds,” Dr. Charles Hays, a Canadian science journalist, advised students at the Department of Microbiology’s annual scholarship luncheon on May 7, 2018. He is the son of the late Helen Alford Hays, a long-time microbiology instructor and advisor from 1955-1981, who established the Helen Alford Hays Women in Microbiology Scholarship with her husband Dale, who worked in OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Helen would have been 100 in 2018 and the luncheon was a tribute to her spirit and her generosity.

“Science was my mother’s life,” said Charles Hays. ”My mom raised me on stories of scientists. She planted that seed of science. She saw science as representing truth.” Adding “all my mother’s heroes were scientists.”

Born in Bismarck, North Dakota, and raised on a farm, Helen Hays put herself through college working as a maid cleaning houses during her first two years at the University of Illinois in the late 1930s. Her third year she asked her grandfather for a loan because the classes were getting harder and she needed more time to study.

Helen came to OSU in the early 1950s to pursue a master’s degree in bacteriology in what is now the Department of Microbiology. She worked as a lab teaching assistant in the department during her graduate studies.

Helen was the only woman in her graduate chemistry course. She was driven to succeed by her professor who appreciated that women wanted to improve their minds, but that “no woman would earn an A in this course…..women can’t do science.” At the end of the term, Helen had the highest grade in the class.

So she created a scholarship in microbiology for women, believing that “everyone should have the opportunity to be the best they can be,” according to her son Charles.

Established in 1991, the Helen Alford Hays Women in Microbiology Scholarship supports undergraduate women majoring in microbiology who have a minimum GPA of 3.0. This year’s recipients of scholarship were sophomores Michelle Zhou and Jay Bickell, graduates of Corvallis High School.

Jay Bickell (left), Charles Hays (center) and Michelle Zhou( right)

Bickell currently works in the Vet Med Lab on campus and plays violin in the Corvallis-OSU Symphony.

“It’s a stress reliever,” explains Bickell. “Science and so many things at OSU are competitive. It is nice to have music.”

Microbiology Department Head Jerri Bartholomew strongly encourages that interconnection of the arts and sciences. She moves easily between both disciplines. She is a nationally recognized for her work in aquatic animal health and an accomplished glass artist. She is also director of the John L. Fryer Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory.

“The art and science connection is strongly encouraged in the Microbiology Department,” said Jerri Bartholomew, the head of the department.

Jerri Bartholomew, Head of Microbiology Department

The scholarship luncheon honored a total of 10 microbiology scholarship students who received eight different awards established by generous alumni and friends of the department. Lead advisor and instructor Linda Bruslind and professor Walt Ream presented the scholarships to the students.

Dr. Ream shared his perspective as a teacher on the value and impact of scholarships. He shared stories of students making tremendous sacrifices to finance their education, working two and three jobs or full-time while then having to miss class due to those work responsibilities. One student who worked full-time as an EMT was a supervisor and had to miss a week of classes when one of his employees suffered a stroke and needed to recover.

Another of Ream’s students worked full-time as a manager at Home Depot had to miss a week of classes when one of his employees quit and he had to step in or be fired himself.

The irony is not lost on Reams. “Those students are missing the very classes that they are working so hard to pay for. Students are working harder than they should.”

Other special guests included Bill and Ellen Ford, who funded the Eleanor G. Ford Memorial Scholarship, and Ann and Dr. Jon Kimerling who support the Thomas R. and Martha S. Aspitarte Scholarship.

The department welcomed a new scholarship, the BioHealth Sciences Student Scholarship, created by BioHealth Sciences Advisor Ariella Wolf.

Scholarships open doors for students that support and deepen their learning. Helen Alford Hays’ motto was based on a quote from Louis Pasteur:  “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Charles Hays remembers finding that quote scrawled in a notebook beside his mother’s bed after she died. Those were the last words she ever wrote.


Student recipient Scholarship
Jay Bickell Helen Alford Hays Women in Microbiology Scholarship
Michelle Zhou Helen Alford Hays Women in Microbiology Scholarship
Jamison Cozart Eleanor G. Ford Memorial Scholarship
Mark H. Middlekauf Scholarship
Tejas Godbole Mark H. Middlekauf Scholarship
Cat Hoang Mark H. Middlekauf Scholarship
Ian Humphreys Mark H. Middlekauf Scholarship
Brendan Quinn Mark H. Middlekauf Scholarship
Donald and Barbara Gamberg OverholserScholarship
Bryna Rackerby Joseph E. Simmons Scholarship
Anna Willie Joseph E. Simmons Scholarship
Madeline Tyler Kathryn Tinnesand Memorial Scholarship
Thomas R. and Martha S. Aspitarte Scholarship


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