Alumna’s bequest will support generations of summer undergraduate researchers.

By Rhonda K. Miller

In the 1940s, Helen E. Royer ’44 paid for the majority of her Bucknell undergraduate and master’s education through a job in the University’s history department. Years later, she told Bucknell’s Gift Planning Office that the experience was instrumental in formulating her career as a historian and an academic.

Royer, the first woman to receive a doctorate in history from Pennsylvania State University, taught early-American history at Stratford Junior College in Connecticut, Bucknell, Penn State University and Montclair State University in New Jersey. She traveled throughout the world studying comparative civilizations in more than 40 countries and was a member of many national, state and local historical societies. She returned to Lewisburg when she retired, in part because of her close connection to Bucknell.

Prior to her death in April 2011, Royer’s attorney contacted the University to discuss her interest in funding a “working Bucknell scholarship,” says Kathleen Graham, associate vice president of Development and Alumni Relations. “Helen was indebted to Bucknell for providing assistance, and she wanted to help undergraduates with financial need build their résumés through an academic work experience.” Graham suggested Royer consider creating an undergraduate research fund to provide students with research opportunities similar to Royer’s experience. “She was excited by the idea after learning more about Bucknell’s current program.”

In 2008, Royer named Bucknell as one of the beneficiaries of her estate, thereby creating the Helen E. Royer Undergraduate Research Fund. Because Royer wanted to provide the most impact for all students, the endowed fund was purposely kept unrestricted, Graham says.

Royer’s gift, which totaled $375,603, supports summer undergraduate research in all disciplines and will be awarded starting in the spring 2013 semester. “Our faculty’s willingness and capacity to integrate undergraduates in their fundamental research is a hallmark of Bucknell. I can think of nothing more emblematic of the core value and quality of our University,” says James Rice, associate provost and dean of graduate studies, who administers the program.

“Helen Royer’s generous gift will underwrite four to five summer undergraduate collaborative projects per year for generations of students to come. For that, we are most grateful,” Rice says.