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DelVal trustee funds the University’s first endowed professorship

Credit: Delaware Valley University. Kerry Zwack '16 harvests food grown hydroponically at DelVal.

Feb 21, 2017

A new $1.5 million gift – added to two previous gifts –  from Delaware Valley University Trustee Kate Littlefield will fund the University’s first endowed professorship. Under the leadership of this endowed professor, DelVal will build a new academic program that specializes in hydroponics and aquaponics within its established plant science department. Once this endowed professorship is filled, two more faculty members will be hired to form a team to conduct teaching and research. This new specialization will allow DelVal students to pursue careers in the growing hydroponics and aquaponics industries.

“Endowed professorships are crucial for recruiting and retaining the highest quality faculty,” said Littlefield. “The benefit to the students will be immeasurable. One professor can impact hundreds of students through research interaction, mentoring and teaching.”

In hydroponics, growers use soilless systems for more precise control of inputs. In aquaponics, fish provide nutrients for plants in a soilless system. These systems allow growers to produce food in unconventional places, using less space and water, thus helping to feed growing populations with limited resources. As acceptance for these types of technologies grows, so has the demand for educational programs in these subject areas.

Dr. Maria Gallo, president of Delaware Valley University, has called Littlefield’s gift “transformational.”

“In a short time, Kate has shown her dedication to DelVal. We are extremely grateful for her generosity,” said Dr. Gallo. “DelVal is building a state-of-the-art hydroponics and aquaponics teaching and research program. Kate’s past support has helped us create the facilities we need for this program and this new gift, added to her previous donations, will provide us with a highly-specialized educator for our students.”

Dr. Chris Tipping, interim dean of agriculture and environmental sciences, added, “With previous gifts from Kate, we were able to renovate two greenhouse bays with NFT (nutrient film technique) and Dutch bucket hydroponic systems. The NFT system employs trays filled with a shallow flow of nutrient-rich water across the roots of plants. Our Dutch bucket system uses containers filled with perlite. Water and nutrients are then dripped into each container. The NFT system is good for growing leafy vegetables and the Dutch bucket system is optimal for crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.” 

Littlefield serves as a director of Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, the world’s leading consumer lawn and garden company. She is also a general partner of Hagedorn Partnership, L.P., and a director of the Hagedorn Family Foundation. She has been a member of DelVal’s Board of Trustees since 2015.    

“DelVal is in a position to help tackle one of the most important issues of our time – feeding a growing population in a world complicated by diminishing natural resources,” said Littlefield. 

Learn more about the Department of Plant Science.