Biology department receives $1 million gift in memoriam

June 11, 1999

ANN ARBOR—A husband’s desire to honor his late wife—a nature photographer with a passionate interest in the natural world—will make it easier for future students who share her passion to study biology at the University of Michigan.

U-M alumni Paul Connell’s gift of $1 million to the U-M Department of Biology is the largest donation in the department’s history.

“Mr. Connell’s gift given in memory of Priscilla Harrison Connell will have a tremendous effect on the teaching and research mission of the department,” said Julian Adams, professor and chair of the U-M Department of Biology. “The funds will be used to establish an endowment to provide continuing support for important faculty and student initiatives. We are deeply grateful to Mr. Connell for his generosity.”
A well-known commercial photographer whose work was widely published in books and magazines, Priscilla Harrison Connell’s interest in photography developed after her 40th birthday, according to her daughter Pamlia Connell Grafe. “She took correspondence courses, attended seminars and workshops, and studied biology independently,” Grafe said. “We would walk through the woods and she could name every flower, plant and bird in Latin. She loved to learn about nature and she loved teaching others about it.”

The Connells, along with their children, lived in Ann Arbor for several years in the mid-1950s while Paul Connell studied physics and mathematics in the U-M College of Engineering. After receiving his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering in 1956, the family moved to Ohio where Paul Connell worked as an engineer and then a high school teacher in the Cincinnati area.
“Dad always loved this school,” Grafe said. “So when he wanted to do something for Mom after she died, it seemed like a perfect match.”

The Department of Biology and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts are sponsoring a free, public exhibit of Connell’s award-winning nature photography on the
U-M campus. The photographs will be on display from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. June 12-21 in the West Gallery at the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies. “Royal Poinciana,” one of the photographs featured in the exhibit, recently was distributed as a commemorative stamp by the U.S. Postal Service.