FSC Dean of Arts and Sciences Creates Fund for First-Generation Students in Beloved Wife’s Memory
February 11, 2022 – FSC Office for Development & Alumni Engagement
Violet Adair (’59), mother, grandmother, accomplished plant scientist, and beloved wife of Academic Dean Charles Adair of the School of Arts and Sciences, became the inspiration behind a $100,000 donation to Farmingdale State College this fall. When she passed away in May 2020 due to the novel coronavirus, Charles, her longtime partner of 57 years, felt like there was no better way to honor her memory than to create a fund that would support first-generation college students at a place that was very personal to both of them: Farmingdale State College (FSC).
“Violet was the daughter of Chinese immigrants and the first in her family to attend college,” said Dean Adair. “I think she’d be very pleased to know that this gift in her name will help others like her on their own journeys.”
The pair met in a biology lab at Cornell University, where Charles was a graduate student and Violet a lab technician pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Charles’ vivid memories come to mind as he shares intimate moments like her breath smelling of the ether she used to sedate fruit flies. He talks of their “laboratory romance” and the stories Violet would share, like growing up with Chinese-speaking parents in Brooklyn, NY, and how they encouraged her love of gardening – but were dismayed that she used their small urban backyard to plant ornamental flowers instead of vegetables.
Violet was proud of becoming the first in her family to earn a college degree; Charles expounds, in her case, an associate degree in 1959 in biotechnology-horticulture from Farmingdale (then known as the Long Island Agricultural and Technical Institute). And he will never forget how she gleamed when she spoke of the gardens on Farmingdale’s campus, filled with fragrant lilacs. They often talked of visiting. But it would be another decade until their professional pursuits brought them back to campus.
After marrying in 1963, Violet earned a master’s degree and Charles a doctorate from the University of Hawaii. The two traveled the globe and taught courses in their specialties at universities in Guam and Singapore. In 1975, when Charles joined the faculty of FSC as a professor of biology, life had come full circle – all the way to the gardens Violet raved about. Though Violet stepped away from teaching and research to raise their two children, she remained a cherished part of the college family for 46 years, and Charles became a pillar in the FSC academic community.
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept through New York in the Spring of 2020, Violet, then 81-years old, was a resident in an assisted living facility. As the story goes and many headlines reported, this facility was among many ravaged by the virus in New York State. It wasn’t long before Charles and Violet’s laboratory romance took a somber turn. By April, Violet Adair had sadly become one of the casualties of the pandemic.
Planting the Seeds for Future Generations of Students
The decision to give back to FSC was natural, Dean Adair said. “I wanted to do something with immediate impact – much to the chagrin of my accountant, who thought I should give a bequest instead,” he said with a laugh. “But I like the idea that the money could be invested now in such a way that it would grow and provide scholarships indefinitely. It was my way to ensure Violet’s legacy at FSC. This place has meant so much to us, and I’m honored to contribute to the mission of the school.”
The Dean hopes to be among the first to welcome the recipients to FSC when the fund begins awarding scholarships in Fall 2022. “I have no plans to retire any time soon, so I hope to meet some of those the donation helps and share with them Violet’s story,” he said. “My hope is that the scholarships will be transformative, just as FSC was for Violet.”
This generous gift established the Violet Loy Adair Scholarship Fund and will keep Violet, who passed in May 2020, alive in spirit at FSC for many years to come. If you are interested in learning more about how to support the fund or in setting up your own scholarship fund in memory of a loved one or to make a gift to an area that means something to you, contact: Matthew J. Colson, Vice President of Development & Alumni Engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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