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WVU Extension scholarship gift aids West Virginia students interested in natural sciences

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A $1,000 scholarship changed Robert Robb’s life by allowing him to attend college, and he is paying that generosity forward with a scholarship gift to benefit  West Virginia University students via  WVU Extension.

The Robert A. Robb Natural Sciences Scholarship benefits West Virginia undergraduate students with financial need who are pursuing a degree in a natural science major or program. First preference goes to students from Morgan County, in the Mountain State’s Eastern Panhandle.

Scholarship candidates will be recommended by the WVU Extension office in Morgan County and approved by the dean of WVU Extension.

“Robert Robb has a passion for education, and we are grateful that he recognizes the importance of education to change lives,” WVU Extension Dean Jorge Atiles said. “His commitment to agriculture and encouraging more young people to pursue studies in this field are critical as we work to address the way we grow and produce food all across the country.”

Robert Robb

Robb’s scholarship gift stems from his involvement with WVU Extension’s  Master Gardener program. He joined the Master Gardeners of Morgan County in 2008 and discovered that the organization provides a small scholarship to local students. He supported that effort, but he eventually sought to make a bigger impact because of the difference scholarship made in his life.

Robb was born in northeastern Ohio and moved to Florida with his family at the age of 12. Upon graduating from high school in the 1950s, he wasn’t even considering college – because he knew his parents couldn’t afford it – until he heard about a scholarship offered by the local Elks Club. He applied and earned the one-time $1,000 award, which he stretched to last more than two years in combination with his earnings from summer and holiday jobs.

With additional scholarship support and student loans, Robb earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Florida.

“Everything I have today I owe to that one scholarship I got,” Robb said. “I wouldn’t even have gone to college. It completely changed my life.”

Following graduation, Robb went to work for the U.S. Navy in Indian Head, Maryland, as a research chemist. His research focused on the aging of explosives and propellants. He retired from the Navy after 33 years and received a Meritorious Civilian Service Award, among the military’s highest honors for civilians.

Robb and his late wife, Sally, began planning for their retirement decades earlier – in the 1970s, when they purchased property in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. They ultimately relocated there in 2002, and Robb has enjoyed being part of the Master Gardeners, a hobby that highlighted a need for agriculture education.

Robb believes food production is critical to the nation’s future, yet he doesn’t see many young people interested in agriculture and related fields, such as entomology, horticulture or plant pathology. He set up the scholarship to provide an incentive.

“It’s an important category,” Robb said. “People need to be considering careers in natural science. We need people who are experts in that area to solve the problems. I wanted to start something to give students a better opportunity if they would otherwise not be able to afford to go to college, so they could go to college and be able to graduate debt-free.”

Robb’s scholarship gift was made through the  WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.