Barb Bishop ’54 (CLAS) and her husband, Albert ’54 (CAHNR) met at UConn and continued to give back to the University as volunteers, advocates, and donors for more than 60 years.
Most recently, Barb and Al, who died in 2017, created their own scholarship to support College of Agricultural, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) students in their junior year. But even before then, the pair had a long legacy of helping UConn.
Several years ago, responding to a call by former CAHNR Dean Kirk Kerr, they helped the College Alumni Association reach its goal of endowing a $100,000 scholarship for student support. In addition, Al negotiated a gift of more than $250,0000 from New Haven County Extension Council to provide much needed unrestricted funding for the College.
Beyond their fundraising support, they both served on the UConn College of Agriculture Alumni Board. They are past recipients of the College’s Storrs Award, the highest honor provided by the College in recognition of their support.
Recently, in light of increasing costs facing students, Barb decided to make an additional gift to their fund, the Al and Barbara Scholarship, to ensure it would provide the impact intended.
Over the years, the scholarship has been awarded to more than a dozen students, who say it made a big difference in their lives. Nathan Wojtyna ’16 (CAHNR), now a middle school science teacher, says the scholarship not only gave him much needed financial assistance, but boosted his confidence.
“It makes you feel like you’re doing something right. There’s someone else who sees the journey I’m on and says ‘yes,’” he explains. “Then there’s the money element. I didn’t live on campus because it was already expensive as it was. The scholarship helped tremendously.”
Wojtyna, who majored in plant science and biotechnology, says he discovered his passion for teaching while serving as a teaching assistant while in graduate school at Cornell University. He loves teaching the practical, applied side of science to middle schoolers at the Irving A. Robbins Middle School in Farmington, Connecticut.
“The part that makes me so excited about teaching is the energy levels in the room,” he says. “It’s that connection you have with the student you taught for a year. It’s not tangible but it’s so valuable.”
This year’s recipient, Emily Syme, says the scholarship has assisted her family with college expenses.
“It’s very helpful,” she says. “I’m very grateful that my parents are paying for college for me, and I want to lessen that burden.”
Syme, a junior, grew up on her family’s farm in East Windsor, Connecticut, where she raised and showed Holstein dairy cattle. Syme, who is majoring in sustainable plant and soil systems, says she always knew she wanted to go into agriculture. She’s the third generation in her family to go to CAHNR. In fact, her parents, William ’92 (CAHNR), ’97 MS and Jennifer Syme ’94 (CAHNR), met in the Dairy Club at UConn.
The Bishops also have their roots in agriculture. They were the fourth generation of Bishops to join the family-run Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford, Connecticut. The 151-year-old family farm grows fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers on more than 300 acres for their farm market, pick-your-own business, and weekly Community Supported Agriculture shares. Now their children and even their grandchildren—the sixth generation of Bishops—are involved in the farm.
Besides their volunteer work for UConn, Barb and Al were both active volunteers for many agricultural organizations over the years. Barb had hosted many international exchange students and, until a few years ago, was very involved in the Cooperative Extension Service, working on nutrition outreach programs in urban areas.