Lab will be gift that keeps giving

A donation to AACC will fund a new facility that will encourage environmental research.

Education Beat

News from Anne Arundel County schools and colleges

September 04, 2005|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

August "Gus" Berlitz, who owned a marina in Deale, had long been concerned about the health of the environment, particularly the Chesapeake Bay.

Now, many years after his death, his estate has given a half-million dollars to Anne Arundel Community College to set up a microbiology lab that will encourage environmental research.

"This is just an absolutely magnificent gift to the college," said Stephen Ailstock, chairman of AACC's biology department. The college has a lab already, he said, but it is in such high demand that it is used all day, every day, even in summer - from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.

"If students weren't sitting there, we were cleaning it," he said. "We were really space-constrained."

The existing lab, in the Henry L. Dragun Science Building, will still be used, he said, but the donation "provides us with a new and better facility where we can train more students."

The old lab can accommodate about 20 students, he said. The new lab will have three sections. A classroom with room for 24 students will be used for study in the health field, and a smaller classroom holding about 12 students will be devoted to study of the environment. Between the two rooms, and probably also in the smaller room, there will be incubators and growth chambers, he said.

The Berlitz Memorial Microbiology and Environmental Studies Laboratory will have microscopes and other equipment.

"It's not only going to be bigger, it's going to be better equipped," Ailstock said.

It's not known yet when or where the new lab will be built, said Judith A. Pielemeier, executive director of the Anne Arundel Community College Foundation Inc., a fundraising arm for the college.

She said the need for a new lab is so great that the college could probably add four more labs and that they would all be used.

The opportunity to expand the college's laboratory capacity came early this year when Pielemeier met with Noel Wilkinson, the lawyer handling the estate of Berlitz and his wife, Marjorie, who died about five years ago. Wilkinson had already established a scholarship at the college in the Berlitz name, but he wanted to donate a lump sum.

He asked for suggestions for a project that would reflect the interests of Gus and Marjorie Berlitz.

"It was probably in Mr. Wilkinson's mind already because of the established relationship that the college would be a good place for him to distribute money," said Pielemeier.

The Berlitzes had no heirs. August Berlitz, who died in the late 1980s, had established in his will that a trust would be set up after his wife died. Upon her death, Wilkinson, a lawyer and family friend, was put in charge of about $500,000 with suggestions - not strict instructions - about how to distribute it.

Wilkinson invested the money and it grew to about $1.5 million, he said. He established the scholarship at the college and another one at Anne Arundel Medical Center, but he wanted to do more.

Berlitz, who had served on a governor's commission focused on the Chesapeake Bay, had been very concerned about the quality of the water, he said. So Wilkinson said he met with college officials and "told them what Gus' interest were, and they expressed to me their interest in establishing their microbiology lab."

Wilkinson said the lab seems to fit the Berlitzes' requirements.

"I'm sure they'd both be pleased with the way the funds would be allocated," he said.

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