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May 7, 2018


The Virginia Museum of Natural History celebrated a new chapter in its scientific research endeavors on Friday evening, when it hosted a reception honoring the newly established Pete Henika Memorial Fund, a $100,000 endowment established to support high-impact, natural history research projects.

During the reception, the museum made the announcement that it is awarding a grant to Virginia Tech graduate student Kirkland Broadwell, a Ph.D. candidate in the field of geology, to support his research into the age and geologic history of the southern Appalachians. The grant is the first that the museum has awarded for a geology-based research project and a prelude to the type of research that the museum and its foundation will be able to support, when the Pete Henika Memorial Fund goes into effect in the coming year.

Pete Henika Memorial Fund Reception"The museum's curators have always been well known within the scientific community as top-tier researchers," said Dr. Joe Keiper, executive director of the museum.  "Our curators, past and present, have led many projects over the decades that have changed science's understanding of our planet's past.  By venturing into the realm of awarding grants, we hope to open doors for researchers at other museums and universities, who might not be able to otherwise secure funding for projects that will offer high scientific value."

The Pete Henika Memorial Fund was established through a $100,000 gift provided by Bill and Mary Jane Henika in honor of the late Pete Henika, brother of Bill.  Both Bill and Mary Jane Henika are long-time museum supporters, with Bill serving as a museum research associate.

​​[PHOTO CAPTION:  Kirkland Broadwell (right), a Ph.D. candidate in the field of geosciences at Virginia Tech and recipient of a research grant awarded by the Virginia Museum of Natural History Foundation to support his research into the age and geologic history of the southern Appalachians, speaks at a reception on Friday, May 4 at the museum to celebrate the founding of the Pete Henika Memorial Fund.  Mr. Broadwell is the first recipient of a grant awarded by the museum's foundation for geological research .  Dr. Mark Caddick, assistant professor of metamorphic processes at Virginia Tech and academic advisor to Mr. Broadwell, stands with Mr. Broadwell.]

"Bill Henika is highly-regarded in the field of geology and allowing the museum to fund research projects is near and dear to his heart," said Keiper.  "The grant awarded to Mr. Broadwell will be given in honor of the Pete Henika Memorial Fund and will serve as a preview of the type of research the museum will be able to fund in the coming years thanks to Bill and Mary Jane."

While the Memorial Fund will initially be dedicated to funding research projects in the field of geology, plans include to open up funding to researchers in a multitude of natural history fields.

"An ongoing complication for researchers is finding funding for high-value research projects that may not result in much public fanfare," said Keiper.  "Many times, funding sources prefer large-scale, collaborative projects that result in a high level of publicity.  The museum, through an advisory committee, will be dedicated to awarding grants for projects based solely on their scientific merit and potential impact on the evolution of basic scientific knowledge."

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