Biology professor’s $1.3 million donation to fund science equipment for years to come

April 11, 2022

With her love for education and nature, late faculty member Myrna Berlet’s influence will live on through a generous gift of $1,295,000 to Jackson College. 

Mark Snedeker, representing the Myrna Berlet Trust, presented the check to Jackson College leadership and faculty in a short ceremony before the April Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, April 11, 2022. The donation will create perpetual funds for science equipment purchases. 

Berlet taught biology, botany, zoology, nature photography and many field biology classes for 32 years at Jackson Community College (1966-1998), influencing generations of students. She guided the development of what would become the John and Mary Dahlem Environmental Education Center, initially a concept developed in a class she was teaching. Her unique perspective as a science faculty member helped her understand the challenges of finding funds for new equipment. This donation will create an endowment fund for the sciences. Annual proceeds from the endowment will provide funds to support biology, chemistry, and physics equipment purchases. 

“I am grateful for the legacy from Professor Berlet. Through this gift, she has created the perfect vehicle that helps to ensure the vibrancy of our instructional program in the sciences,” said Jackson College President & CEO, Dr. Daniel Phelan. “It is gifts like these that continue to advance Jackson College’s mission to transforming student lives.” 

In addition to teaching, she and her first husband, Walter Berlet, built an award-winning nature film business. Myrna was an avid photographer and became an accomplished woodcarver. Her drive, faith and passion shined through in all she did. Berlet passed away in 2021 at the age of 80. She will continue to influence students at Jackson College for years to come with this donation.  

“Myrna’s entire life was about giving back. So few people get the privilege of living their life doing what they love and being successful at that, not just monetarily but through all of the lives she touched,” said Mark Snedeker. “To take all of that wealth and give it back to those causes that meant so much. It’s my pleasure to be a part of it; how fortunate I have been that she was part of my life. Thank you all for being here.” 

Dr. Jon Powell, a current professor of biology at Jackson College, recalls being a student of Berlet. “I had the pleasure to have Myrna Berlet as an instructor in botany and zoology my first year at JCC. She was a challenging instructor and ultimately got the most out of each of us. Even though she was a rigorous instructor, she had a great rapport with her students. I fondly recall her opening lab a night for us to have study sessions before tests. We all benefitted from her vast experience as a wildlife filmmaker and field experience.  

“She was certainly one of my favorite instructors throughout my college education, and I would like to think that I am helping to carry on her legacy as a JCC professor,” Powell said. “Her incredible gift to the Science Department will help us continue her commitment to providing an outstanding education to our students!”