About this Fund
Jane Bemis, born in Cleveland in 1920, was a rare specimen herself. Her father was a successful engineer and inventor. She used her Radcliffe and Michigan education in classics and languages to work as a code-breaker during World War II and later to live and work in Japan. Her curatorial instincts for preserving her family's collections never wavered during her long life. Just before she died last year, she agreed to support her son's passion for biological collections with a large endowment. In all, she left four separate gifts - totaling $700,000 and qualifying for state matching funds - for research and maintenance of the collections. "I looked at her fund as a very interesting way to multiply the effects of her gift," says Willy Bemis. "And it all goes to benefit something I care very deeply about. Besides all the practical aspects of this fund, it's also a way to memorialize all the wonderful values my mother represented." What is now called the Jane H. Bemis Fund for Research in Natural History also epitomizes the research, outreach, and teaching that UMass stands for as a landgrant institution.
The Bemis Fund supports the kind of systematic research that, as Bemis says, "we have to do if we're going to make a serious effort to conserve the earth." It also preserves thousands of specimens so they can be studied by, displayed for, and enjoyed by countless curious naturalists and UMass visitors in the future. And it supports the acquisition and maintenance of expensive teaching collections. "There is an increasingly prevelant belief that everything on earth can be learned via the Internet," says Bemis. "But there is nothing to replace the hands-on learning that comes from seeing and feeling and smelling and handling actual specimens."