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Thinking big about grand challenges

by Catherine Sigal, Chair, ACS Development Advisory Board
March 27, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 13

Catherine Sigal
Credit: Bachrach
A photo of a Catherine Sigal.
Credit: Bachrach

Nearly every day, we receive new information on the grand challenges facing society: health care, food sufficiency, protection of the environment, and sustainable energy.

It is a reminder to each of us that chemistry as the central science has a pivotal role to play in addressing these issues, and that the American Chemical Society is uniquely positioned to promote that role. The world’s grand challenges inspire us all to think big about chemistry solutions and our profession’s responsibilities to society.

One impactful way each of us can help is to take part in ACS’s philanthropic activities. Donor support for ACS’s priority programs helps ensure that the chemistry profession will have the talent it needs to combat the challenges of today and tomorrow. And an immediate benefit to donors is that gifts to ACS are tax deductible.

The unique partnerships that occur when corporations, foundations, and individual donors designate funds to ACS have had a truly remarkable track record. Recent highlights from ACS fundraising efforts include the following:

Thank you to all who contributed to ACS programs in 2016.

In 2016, ACS surpassed the halfway point of its goal to establish a $5 million endowment to help sustain the ACS Scholars Program. This impressive result includes donations and planned gifts from individuals and corporations who believe in the program’s promise to build a diverse chemical enterprise by supporting talented college students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in science.

The ACS Board of Directors renewed its support for the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT), a community of more than 4,000 educators who are committed to advancing chemistry teaching and learning in grades K–12. The launch of AACT was made possible through the generosity and shared vision of Dow Chemical, the program’s founding partner. Since then, the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Ford Motor, and PPG Industries Foundation have each funded grants to produce additional teaching resources.

Nine outstanding newly tenured chemistry faculty received funding through the Teva Pharmaceuticals Marc A. Goshko Memorial Grant Program. These grants are given to promising young scientists in organic chemistry whose research offers potential applications to human medicines. The awards offer rare support to researchers at a critical point in their academic careers.

Project SEED will reach a milestone in 2018 with 50 years of expanding opportunities for academically promising, economically disadvantaged high school students to step into the lab, enabling them to gain direct mentoring experiences with chemical professionals. In the past year, contributors supported fellowships totaling more than $1 million, while ACS covered administrative costs and provided additional funding.

Such achievements are possible when big ideas to address significant challenges are matched with the society’s leadership and resources—gifts of time and money—from people like you and me. Thank you to all who contributed to these and other ACS programs in 2016. For more information about the impact of philanthropic gifts to ACS, please view the 2016 development progress report.

ACS’s member-led Development Advisory Board (DAB) and the professionally staffed Development Office work to enhance philanthropic opportunities by cultivating donor relationships and targeting funds to the critical needs in chemistry and society at large.

A key part of DAB’s responsibility involves recommending priority areas for philanthropy to the ACS Board of Directors, which annually reviews fundraising goals. Current priority programs are Project SEED, the ACS Scholars Program, and Advancing Chemistry Teaching (a collection of teaching and learning resources that includes AACT). Taken together, these important core programs support students and teachers of chemistry at all grade levels while also helping bring diverse talent into the profession.

Throughout 2016, DAB and the Development Office undertook an intensive strategic planning process. As a result, the group produced a new vision to guide the society’s fundraising: “Advancing tomorrow’s STEM workforce and the benefits of chemistry through philanthropy.” The group also articulated the ACS fundraising mission: “To secure support for ACS programs that benefit students, teachers, and the broader chemistry enterprise and that increase public understanding of chemistry.”

Further, as part of DAB’s work to recommend ACS’s philanthropic priorities, its members and Development Office staff collected feedback from leaders in academia and industry about the unique role that ACS can play in developing solutions to benefit the profession and society.

Several major themes emerged. These include the importance of communicating chemistry to the public, increasing support for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, and supporting programs on green chemistry and sustainability, to name a few.

We encourage corporations, individuals, and foundations who share ACS’s vision to become involved. Whether you or your company wishes to endow a scholarship for promising students, support innovative approaches to addressing grand challenges, or partner with ACS to launch a new program, we value your input and participation.

Chemists and chemistry will be critical to solving the world’s great challenges. Matching our community’s talents and resources with ACS’s leadership is a significant and powerful opportunity.

Please join us in laying the groundwork for the future. Visit or contact the Development Office at (202) 872-6210 to make your contribution.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.



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