Alumnus Gifts $1.28 Million in Support of Physics, Astronomy
by Sheena Rice
COLUMBIA, Mo. – When Ronald J. Boain, a 1965 graduate of the University of Missouri, made his first donation to his alma mater, the gift was small — just $5 — but it was the first of what was to become 50 years of financial support. Today, MU officials announced that Boain recently gifted a total of $1.28 million to the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Arts and Science to support student success.
“The same year that Ron supported the first manned mission to the moon while working with NASA, he also made his first gift of $5 to his beloved alma mater – Mizzou,” MU Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said. “Now, 50 years later, Ron and Cathy continue to be some of our most loyal donors. Today’s $1.28 million commitment to help expand professional development opportunities for our students underscores that loyalty.”
The Ronald J. Boain and Catherine J. Rangel Boain Endowment fund was established with a bequest of $1.25 million. The endowment will provide support for both undergraduate and graduate students studying astronomy and physics for expenses related to professional development, such as on-campus speakers, career fairs and support of students participating in internships. Additionally, Boain gave $30,000 to set up the Boain PhD Dissertation Award in Physics and the Boain PhD Student Travel Fund to support graduate students.
“Ron and Cathy’s generosity will have an amazing impact on students,” said Patricia Okker, dean of the College of Arts and Science. “For five decades, Ron has continued to give back to the very program that he credits for his career. These new gifts will ensure that many students who want to study the stars can have the same success after graduation that he experienced.”
Boain, a devoted alumnus with two degrees from MU, knew he wanted to attend the same school his father attended. Unlike his father, who came to the university to play football under Don Faurot, he wanted to study astronomy as he loved observing the planets and stars. He enrolled in the College of Arts and Science in 1961 and completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees by 1967.
After graduation Boain began a career in the aerospace industry, eventually working for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he was involved with several space projects, including planetary exploration projects and designing special satellites to observe the water content of clouds around the globe. His work with satellites earned him an Exceptional Achievement Medal from NASA in 2007.
In 2016, upon retirement, Boain and his wife, Cathy, returned home to Columbia from California.
“Throughout my career working in a field that I loved, I faced new problems and challenges,” Boain said. “In many cases, the solution to these problems drew from the basic principles I learned during my study of physics. That is why it was an easy decision for Cathy and me to set aside a portion of our estate as an endowment to the University of Missouri and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. It is my hope it will help other students, like me, see opportunities in industry, government, and private and public research facilities during their years beyond graduation.”