Endowed Research Fund in Neuroscience Making an Impact

Bob and Peggy Cole with grandson, Timothy Harry '18

Bob and Peggy Cole with grandson, Timothy Harry ’18

written by Carol Cooper, UNH Advancement Relations

If she were a college student today, Peggy Stockwell Cole ’72 says she could see herself majoring in neuroscience. Originally enrolled as an occupational therapy major, she left UNH to get married and raise three children, but continued to follow her educational goals on a part-time basis.  In her mid-30s, she returned to UNH full time to earn a degree in sociology. “I always loved research and the sciences,” she says. It’s one of the reasons that when Cole and her husband, Bob, learned that UNH was about to launch a new interdisciplinary major in neuroscience and behavior, they jumped right in to help.  “We were so excited about this new joint major when we heard about it in its conceptual stage, we proposed funding faculty research,” she explains.

The Coles established the endowed Cole Neuroscience and Behavior Faculty Research Fund in 2010 to support faculty research in the then-new major, which is housed jointly in the College of Liberal Arts and College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. The endowment has a particular focus on the development of successful grant applications to fund research projects— reflecting the couple’s deep passion for life-long learning and appreciation for innovation and breakthrough ideas that can arise from investments in education.

In its first year, the fund supported the collection of pilot data being gathered by psychology professor Robert Drugan for a research project on shock- and swimming-induced stress, which was subsequently submitted for publication. In August 2013, Drugan invited the couple to his lab, where they met with graduate student Nathan Stafford ’17G to talk about the work their endowment had made possible.  “It was thrilling to be able to see and learn firsthand what is happening in the field, and as result of our gift,” says Bob.

The Coles are so delighted with the early results of their endowment that they have made additional gifts to increase the impact of their fund. Jon Wraith, dean of the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture, is equally enthusiastic about the positive impact the Coles’ generous support has had on the faculty and students of the still-growing neuroscience and behavior program.  “Peggy and Bob are intelligent and curious people, and that curiosity to learn and understand more is also exactly what our faculty are pursuing through their research in this exciting field,” he says. “Thanks to Peggy and Bob’s support, our faculty in both colleges are able to gather the data they need to pursue funding at the national level, which will continue to raise the profile and visibility of our program.  We are incredibly grateful to them for their foresight and for providing UNH an opportunity to position itself strongly within this emerging field.”

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