Fort Lewis College News and Events

After nearly 40 years, the Senne scholarship is paying big dividends in the lives of FLC chemistry students

The Fort Lewis College Foundation has announced the gift of $70,000 from Ms. Nathine Senne. This gift will go toward the Richard A. Senne Memorial Scholarship fund that Ms. Senne and her late husband, Herbert, created in 1978 in honor of their son. Richard Senne was a 1973 Fort Lewis College graduate in chemistry. He tragically passed away from leukemia in 1978.

The same year that Richard passed away, another young man, Nathaniel Cobb (Chemistry, ’80), was just beginning his college career. He would receive the Senne scholarship in 1979. The generosity of the Senne family would come to have a major impact on, not only Nat’s college education, but his entire life.

“When I started at Fort Lewis College in 1978, I was a 28-year old Outward Bound instructor and river guide,” he remembers. “My first two college years had been disastrous, and I wasn't sure that I was cut out for academia, but I had a dream of becoming a physician and I was determined to give it a good try. Writing a personal check for my first tuition payment was symbolic for me - it really felt like a large personal sacrifice to turn over my meager savings for a nebulous, and perhaps impossible, goal. Once in the FLC Chemistry Department, I became truly excited by what I was learning, and I discovered the joy of doing real science.

“The Senne scholarship, together with some student loans, gave me the freedom to focus fully on my studies without needing a part-time job for subsistence. I really do think it was that freedom, those extra hours of study time, that launched me with enough momentum to be admitted to Harvard Medical School. I believe that many students are compromised just enough by economic difficulty that they don't quite succeed. Maybe a little boost would have put them over the top. I am grateful for those who see this truth and who are so generous in supporting others.”

After FLC and Harvard, Nathaniel (now Dr. Cobb) spent 19 years in the Indian Health Service, retiring in 2011 as chief of the Chronic Disease Branch. He also spent 23 years in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), leaving the service as a captain. During his time with the USPHS, he worked in a health hotspots all over the world.

Twenty years after Dr. Cobb earned the Senne scholarship, another FLC student, Christian Adams (Chemistry-Biochemistry, ’01), would join the list of recipients in 1999.

“I received the Senne scholarship in the middle of my time as a chemistry/biochemistry major at FLC,” says Dr. Adams. “The money from the scholarship supported me as I learned the fundamentals of biochemistry and chemistry, skills and knowledge that I use to this day. College is and continues to be a challenge from a financial perspective and the financial help from the Senne scholarship allowed me to focus on learning.

“I am currently the head of Biochemistry at DuPont Industrial Biosciences in Palo Alto, CA. We use protein engineering to develop new products that, in my view, make the world a better place. We design new enzymes for laundry and dish detergents, enabling consumers around the world to clean their clothes and their dishes using less energy and fewer harmful chemicals.”

In the nearly 40 years since the Senne’s established their scholarship, dozens of FLC chemistry students have received the award. Recipients have gone on to earn graduate degrees at some of the country’s most prestigious institutions and do important work all over the world, just like Dr. Cobb and Dr. Adams.

Fort Lewis College is one of Colorado’s top producers of graduates who go on to earn chemistry doctorate degrees, according to the National Science Foundation. In the last 10 years, only Colorado State University, the University of Colorado, and Colorado School of Mines have graduated more undergraduates who earn chemistry Ph.D.s than Fort Lewis College, a remarkable stat given that FLC is one of the smaller and most affordable schools in the state.

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