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Jackson College receives $1.2 million donation for science equipment from late professor's estate

Posted at 5:51 PM, Apr 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-12 17:51:27-04

JACKSON, Mich. — Myrna Berlet passed away in 2021 but the former instructor at Jackson College has left behind a legacy, donating more than $1 million to the college’s science program.

Berlet taught biology, botany, zoology, nature photography and field biology classes for 32 years at the college. She started at Jackson College in 1966 and was there until her retirement in 1998.

“She was a large force when it came to the environment and to teaching,” said Mark Snedeker who was a personal representative for the Myrna Berlet Trust and presented the donation to the college. “She was a lifelong teacher and environmentalist here in Jackson. Myrna put a lot of her own personal money and effort into her teaching. She wanted to be sure that all people coming behind her as teachers would have the necessary funds and equipment needed.”

She and her first husband, Walter, built an award-winning nature film company called Berlet Film and Video. It lasted for 28 years. Their work was shown in classrooms, on television and in presentations across the United States and the world.

Myrna Berlet

And she left money to causes she cared about. In January, Berlet’s trust donated $5.2 million to the Dahlem Conservancy.

“She just had just a strong will to be able to see beyond what we saw at that present moment with the Dahlem Center and now with all of the global warming and the challenges that we’re seeing with the environment generally, you could see that the vision she had is now being realized,” Jackson College President Daniel Phelan said.

Jackson College biology professor Jon Powell was one of Berlet’s students.

“Every semester when I’m teaching biology, I’m hearkening back to some of those tales that we tell from our classes,” Powell said. “There were nights when she would come in and open up the lab and we’d have study sessions. She had a great rapport with all of us and it’s just wonderful to be back here and hopefully carry on that legacy to some degree. She loved this place. She’s very much missed now.”

The $1.2 million gift will allow Jackson College to create perpetual funds for biology, physics and chemistry equipment purchases.

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