Spring 2018

Boost for budding botanists

Mary Kemen at the Conservatory, where she once did research
Photography by Stephanie Xenos

The story of Mary Kemen, ’78 B.S., ’79 B.A. ’84 M.D., is proof that you can go home again. A graduate of the U’s botany and biochemistry programs and Medical School, the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, anesthesiologist recently returned to campus to attend an event at the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) Conservatory.

“I had not been there for more than 40 years, and it just took me back,” she says. “I saw many of the same plants in the greenhouse that have been preserved in their habitats for decades.” She also visited the U’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve and was impressed with the research being done there. 

After consulting with CBS leaders about areas of greatest need, Kemen made a gift to support educational programs for children at the two facilities.

“There’s a wonderful symmetry to it all,” she says. “I worked at the Conservatory and did all my undergraduate experiments in it. I spent hours working for Professor Douglas Pratt in the cattail patches.” 

Kemen hopes her gift will instill a love of science in children. “It’s so important to show them how fun science is and to encourage them to remain interested in science throughout their lives, no matter what careers they choose,” she says.