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Donor's trust to support biological sciences department

UNT Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Warren Burggren presents a certificate of appreciation to Maurine Pearson's son Robert Hoferth and his wife, Vicki.

The Department of Biological Sciences will benefit from a trust distribution of more than $88,000 from North Texas rancher and philanthropist Maurine Pearson, who died in August. The gift has special meaning to Provost Warren Burggren, who began conducting biology research using emu eggs from Pearson’s ranch more than 10 years ago.

“Maurine is a part of our biology family,” Burggren said. “It’s a legacy that goes all the way back to 1999.”

Above, Burggren, left, with Pearson's son, Robert Hoferth and his wife Vicki Hoferth.

Pearson’s relationship with UNT began when a biology graduate student was scouting sources for emu eggs in North Texas and came across Pearson’s ranch, where she cared for a large flock of emus. Burggren was doing prenatal cardiac research and chose emu eggs because of their large size and because the hearts in emus’ eggs are similar to human hearts in their early developmental stage. Working in an incubation lab, Burggren and his fellow researchers used emu eggs to study blood circulation, the amount of oxygen in the embryo’s blood and many other factors - all to learn how fetal hearts develop.

Emu, second largest living bird, is native to Australia.“When contacted by UNT with the possibility of purchasing some emu eggs, Ms. Pearson became interested in our projects and immediately donated dozens of valuable eggs to graduate students in our department,” Burggren said.

“In fact, over the course of several years, she offered not only her expertise in all things emu, but donated literally thousands of valuable eggs and several large pieces of equipment, all in the name of promoting biological research.”

To commemorate Pearson’s gift, a conference room in the Life Sciences Complex will be renamed in her honor.

“We’re very excited and very grateful for this gift – I only wish Ms. Pearson could see the conference room named in her honor,” Burggren said.

Left, an emu at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Park, Glen Rose.

- Claudia Taylor, Division of Advancement

Posted on: Thu 24 January 2013

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