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Oct. 10, 2001
OSWEGO -- Nearly 40 years ago, a beginning professor at SUNY Oswego saw "tremendous potential" for research in a young student. Now that student, who went on to build a successful career in chemistry, is repaying his mentor's trust in him with an endowment to help generations of students fulfill their own potential for scholarship.
Thomas Weil, who graduated in 1966 from Oswego with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, and his wife, Barbara Weil, have endowed the Augustine Silveira Jr. Fund for the benefit of SUNY Oswego chemistry students.
Silveira, a distinguished teaching professor emeritus and former chair of the chemistry department at SUNY Oswego, retired last December. He is currently at SUNY Purchase, serving as the Jules Roth Visiting Scholar, presenting talks on organo-nitrogen chemistry research that Weil began.
When Weil told him of the endowment, "I was speechless," Silveira said. "I didn't expect anything in return, other than that I tried to instill in my students to give their very best."
Weil, now business technology manager with BP Amoco, said, "I really want to give something back to Oswego and specifically give to Gus the recognition he deserves."
The Weils have pledged $50,000 to be paid over three years to fund the trust, which will provide money for scholarships, fellowships and guest lecturers in chemistry.
"We greatly appreciate this most generous gift," said Kenneth Hyde, chair of the college's chemistry department.
Weil said Silveira had a "tremendous influence" on his life. "I came from a small farm community, where even getting a college education was a big thing," he said. Silveira "let me know the options I had open," he added.
Weil earned his doctorate at the University of Cincinnati and then went on to post-doctoral work. As a National Science Foundation research fellow in 1974, he was one of five U.S. exchange scientists working with the Institute of Organo-Element Chemistry in Moscow. He holds five U.S. patents and received an honorary doctorate from SUNY Oswego in 1994.
Weil called a summer class in qualitative chemistry that he took with Silveira "a turning point in my life." He said, "This was almost one on one with a professor. That's almost unheard of today."
Silveira remembers it, too. Weil was working on organo-nitrogen compounds and the pyrazolone ring system. "Tom was my first student to open up this area of research that proved to be very productive," he said.
The line of research brought over a million dollars in grants to Oswego over the years. It has proved useful in making anti-cancer drugs, among other things, Silveira noted.
Donations to the Augustine Silveira Jr. Fund can be made by contacting the Office of University Development in King Alumni Hall, 312-3003.
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