Alumni Gift Assists Biology Students

September 02, 2009

It was like Christmas in the biology laboratory of the main campus at the end of the first week of classes, even though it was still August.

Michael Kersch, a 1960 graduate of one of the university’s predecessor institutions, Saint Leo Preparatory School, brought the holiday feel along when he arrived at Lewis Hall bearing a new, medical-school grade Leica microscope as a gift for current Saint Leo science students. The undergraduate lab assistants on hand, along with the science faculty at the event, beamed as if it was indeed Christmas, with Kersch acting as a slim Santa in a baseball cap as he unpacked the equipment and explained its background.

Even though the scope is brand new, the story goes back a few decades, Kersch revealed. He had been a "behavior problem" in high school, he recalled, until he was admitted to Saint Leo Prep in the late 1950s. The instruction and guidance he received at Saint Leo helped him change his attitude and apply his substantial intellect. After college, he became a medical technologist, and then discovered a lasting and rewarding career as a pharmaceutical auditor, or someone who reviews new drugs for compliance with specific standards. "Had I not come to Saint Leo," he said, "I’d probably be pumping gas."

Instead, he is now semi-retired, taking on consulting jobs when he wishes. Kersch said he works for most clients at their premises, using their equipment. But earlier in the year, he accepted one job that required him to have his own microscope, leading him to purchase the Leica CM E model. The contract was then cancelled, and Kersch was left with a desirable new piece of equipment. Rather than selling it, he decided to donate it to Saint Leo for academic use and contacted Francis Crociata, senior development officer in University Advancement.

Saint Leo is very appreciative of the gift, particularly as this microscope has technical features that are lacking in some of the lab’s existing microscopes. Students will consequently be able to pursue some more advanced projects this year, said Iain Duffy, assistant professor of biology, noting that a few of the current lab assistants wish to go to medical school. “We can get students to get some sort of medical research projects going,' he said.