Fund honors professor, longtime chemistry mentor

Like so many former Virginia Commonwealth University students, Joyce Stargardt (B.S. ’78; M.S. ’81) has fond memories of her days on campus. It was a time, she recalled, when young women had aspirations of becoming secretaries, bank tellers or hairdressers. Then Fred Hawkridge, Ph.D., came along as a professor in the chemistry department.

“When he came to VCU, I was looking for a senior research project, and I was fortunate to bump into him,” Stargardt remembered. “He showed me that I could do so much more than I thought. Fred never let me say, ‘I can’t do that.’”

After VCU, Stargardt went to work at Philip Morris USA, initially in the analytical chemistry lab, then traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe visiting suppliers to ensure compliance and compatibility with inks and coatings used in the company’s product packaging.

“During my time at VCU, I had the opportunity to learn not only the chemistry that Dr. Hawkridge taught but how to put the work together,” Stargardt said. “He often said that if we couldn’t get the point across through writing or presentations, then we didn’t have a whole lot.”

Stargardt and other chemistry students at VCU found themselves among the Hawkridge family. He was available by phone for questions or feedback and always served as a mentor, a leader and an example to follow.

After 35 years of service in a number of leadership roles at the university, including professor, chair of the Department of Chemistry, executive associate dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences and interim dean of the college, Hawkridge retired in June 2011.

His friends, colleagues and former students established and contributed more than $75,000 to the Fred M. Hawkridge Fund in Chemistry in honor of his service and inspiration. The fund will provide resources in the areas of greatest need, such as student scholarships, research support, fellowships, and faculty recruitment and development.

“I was stunned when I learned what was happening,” Hawkridge said. “I’m amazed and grateful.”

He plans to keep an office on campus where he can stay connected to the department and help with alumni relations.

Stargardt made a gift and encourages others to contribute to the Hawkridge Fund.

"It's not only giving back but paying forward. Being able to take what Fred gave us and not only say 'thank you' but to make a difference in the future, that's what this fund is all about," she said. "To inspire people and show them that they can do more than they ever thought they could. Fred really changed the road I was on, and when you're able to take that and help make something happen that makes a difference and includes the next generation of students, gosh, I can't tell you how good it makes you feel."

To make a gift to the College of Humanities and Sciences, contact Lois Badey, director of development and alumni relations, at (804) 827-0856 or