Alumna continues support of College of Natural Sciences after death with new legacy endowment

Hannah Williford

A chemistry alumna’s final contribution to the College of Natural Sciences will culminate in the largest sum of money gifted to the college.

Lorraine Stengl, who died last year at the age of 99, started giving money and donating land to the College of Natural Sciences in 1991. CNS communications director Christine Sinatra said Stengl has donated nearly $45 million to CNS, which includes the new legacy endowment announced Oct. 21, her 101st birthday.

Sinatra said the donated land, which is located in Smithville, was named the Stengl Lost Pines Biological Station and serves as a research area. The new endowment represents continued support for the station and some of the money from the gift will go towards its upkeep, Sinatra said. 

“(The station) is an opportunity for students to get to be in the natural environment that’s protected, that’s conserved, and to actually have experiences up close with what’s happening with living things” Sinatra said.

Alejandra Rodriguez, a biological and environmental sciences senior, said she has used the station since her freshman year and said she likes seeing students learn there. She said students have free range at the station to collect important insects and plants in the area for their research.


“(The center helps) students who have never really been out in nature understand that we have a pine woodlands here near Austin,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a totally different environment than we get in Central Texas because they get to go farther east where there’s more rainfall … and they see all these different types of things that they have never seen before in Austin.”

In addition to maintaining the Stengl station, Sinatra said the funding will go toward a new postdoctoral research program called the Stengl-Wyer Scholars Program. It will also fund existing Freshman Research Initiatives, which allow freshmen to engage in real-world research experience with faculty and graduate students.

Susan Cameron Devitt, an assistant professor of practice and a research educator for a Freshman Research Initiative, said the endowment funds the portion of the initiatives not covered by tuition. She said this eliminates the need for the initiative to find grants to fund the program. 

“Having this kind of permanent funding that’s going to kind of take care of that other missing piece I think will give a lot more stability to (the initiatives),” Devitt said.