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Mary Willard Trustee Scholarship Created by Bob and Ruby Adams

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'Pay It Forward" Tradition Continued by Robert Adams ('52 B.S. Chem) with Trustee Scholarship in Forensic Science

University Park, Pa. - When Robert (Bob) W. Adams, '52 B.S. Chem, came to Penn State in the late 1940s, he did so because of his friend and benefactor Richard Snively, '16 B.S. ME. As a teenager, Bob earned extra money working on the Snively 17-acre estate, caring for the lawn and grounds and performing other odd jobs for the family. Over the years, Bob was befriended by Mr. Snively and his family members.

Being a Penn State alumnus, Mr. Snively promoted Penn State heavily to Bob by reminiscing about the university and then by bringing him to campus for a tour. Sadly enough, Mr. Snively had lost a daughter in an auto accident, and he offered to pay for Bob's schooling with the money he would have spent on her college education. After Bob was accepted at Penn State and received a senatorial scholarship, which paid for the fifty dollar per semester tuition, Mr. Snively provided for Bob's room and board and all other expenses. A proud moment for Bob's family, he would be the first from his immediate family to attend college and his parents had no need to borrow money to fund his education. Bob remained close to Mr. Snively until his death in 1977.

During Bob's years at Penn State , he became fond of Professor Mary Willard who taught the various chemistry classes he took, particularly chemical microscopy, advised him on his required senior thesis, and was his mentor. “As I was receiving job offers before graduation, Dr. Willard helped me to evaluate and choose among them. I eventually chose Sun Oil Research as my first career, where I stayed for eight years. “I liked Dr. Willard as a teacher and as a person,” reflected Adams. “She always made time for you, giving you her complete attention. Dr. Willard was so much more than just a professor.”

As a renowned forensic scientist in addition to a professor, Dr. Willard was often called upon as an expert witness by the Pennsylvania State Police and other agencies. On occasion she involved her students in real-life criminal investigations when they assisted with ballistics comparisons and other related testing. According to Bob, she was known for bringing ‘strange things' into her laboratory for examination - he specifically remembers samples of blood and of stomach contents ending up in the Willard laboratory refrigerator. “I enjoyed the real-life teaching style of Dr. Willard along with her energy and enthusiasm.”

When asked about the creation of the Mary Willard Trustee Scholarship, Bob stated, “I strictly wanted to create this endowment to honor Dr. Willard, her passion and her forensic science expertise. My wife Ruby and I, in this stage of our life, also wanted to leave something behind to help students. Funding this endowment has been very gratifying to us.” In keeping with the tradition of ‘paying it forward' that began with Mr. Snively in the 1940s, Bob encouraged his younger brother to attend college and helped with his expenses. “Even though my brother went to Temple, I helped him and forgave him for not attending Penn State.”

Bob and wife Ruby, having both lost their spouses, married four years ago and reside in Alvin, Texas. Joined families, they now have seven adult children and thirteen grandchildren ranging in age from six to thirty-two years of age. After two campus visits, Ruby has fallen in love with Penn State and provided steady encouragement to Bob to establish the scholarship.

Bob finished a successful career that began at Sun Oil when he retired from Amoco Chemical Company after forty years in the chemical industry. With Amoco, he had served as Chief Chemist at three different manufacturing facilities. Bob and Ruby remain busy volunteering with the Alvin Library League serving as treasurer and secretary, respectively, as well as with the Alvin Museum Society and their local churches. For the past eight years Bob has also served on the Brazoria County Library Board and is the current president.

The Mary Willard Trustee Scholarship will provide financial assistance to undergraduate students enrolled or planning to enroll in the Eberly College of Science with first preference given to eligible students in the Forensic Science major. “Creating this endowment keeps Penn State a small part of me though I am not physically present. It has been a very satisfying sentiment to endow this scholarship utilizing the trustee matching program,” says Bob as he continues the ‘pay it forward' tradition with hopes that scholarship recipients will do the same one day.


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