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Three generations, nine alumni, one connection

The Western tradition in a family prompts a gift to explore scientific possibilities

May 7, 2014

Three generations, nine alumni, one connection
As students, Mary Catherine Fallona, BSc’61, MSc’65, and her brother James, BSc’58, MSc’62, explored scientific mysteries. Their gift to the Faculty of Science will encourage the very curiosity they discovered at Western.

James Fallona saunters to a bookcase in the sitting room of the home he shares with his sister Mary Catherine.

From the middle shelf, James pulls out a green, hardbound book. He flips through the pages, with the same care given to a rare find.

“This is my father’s thesis from 1927,” says James, gently touching its typewritten pages and hand-drawn illustrations. “He started at Western when there were no buildings on campus. Both the University College and Natural Science Building opened during his time.

“He learned from professors who wrote the University’s early history. And my father was one of many in our family to become Western alumni.”

Family filled with Western graduates
In fact, James, BSc’58, MSc’62, and Mary Catherine, BSc’61, MSc’65, are among nine family members who graduated with a combined total of 14 degrees from Western. (An aunt graduated from Brescia University College in 1924.)

As a way to recognize what they’ve received from Western, the Fallona siblings have donated $104,000 to the Faculty of Science.

Their gift to create the Fallona Family Interdisciplinary Science Award and Symposium Fund will empower students and researchers to explore possibilities of what can happen when they work with other science disciplines.

“Just as we discovered at Western, we want others to see how research and learning can be effective across the sciences and expand what we know,” says Mary Catherine.

Scientific curiosity inspired giving
Their desire to “pass it on” comes from parents fascinated with science, particularly physics and astronomy.

“They were strong proponents of learning and getting a good education – to see where it would take you,” adds Mary Catherine.

In the 1920s, their father, Philip, did early research on solar ultraviolet radiation, a technology first used in the Second World War.

Four decades later, James worked on spectroscopy devices to improve understanding of wavelengths, light and radiated energy.

In the 1960s, Mary Catherine investigated a newly discovered mould with antibiotic properties. She is credited with unlocking its elements and purifying it (a project initiated by NASA to discover infections astronauts might get in the then-unknown world of space travel).

Laboratory research ignited passion
“We both conducted classical research using basic instruments in our labs,“ he says.

“Like slide rulers,” she interjects, with a smile. “No computers for us.”

After completing their graduate research, both followed in their father’s footsteps, working as high school teachers in Toronto. “I wanted to pass on my excitement and knowledge of scientific discovery,” adds James.

“I thought if I teach, I can have a broader impact on the next generation,” says Mary Catherine.

No doubt their gift to Western will do just that.

To learn more about Faculty of Science priorities, contact Paula Luchak, Director of Development (519.661.2111, ext. 86642) or visit the Science web page.

Giving for more learning
A recent gift to Western by James and Mary Catherine Fallona will facilitate dialogue among researchers from different sciences.

  • Fallona Family Interdisciplinary Science Award
    Given annually to a scientist (alternating between a Western faculty member and external researcher) involved in interdisciplinary work that makes a positive impact in the world
  • Fallona Family Interdisciplinary Symposium Fund
    Provided to a yearly forum for students and scholars to expand the value of interdisciplinary work

This article appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of Impact Western
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