Barstow Foundation gift establishes scholarship in honor of Bob Zahner

Thanks to a contribution of $20,000 from the Barstow Foundation, Western Carolina University has created a scholarship and fellowship fund in tribute to the late Bob Zahner, former trustee of Highlands Biological Station.

“The primary purpose of the Bob Zahner Endowed Fund in Environmental Sciences is to support scholarly activities of Western Carolina University students at the Highlands Biological Station,” said Jim Costa, WCU professor and the station’s executive director.

Above: Bob Zahner, former trustee of Highlands Biological Station, is pictured at Whiteside Mountain in Highlands. (Photo courtesy of The Highlander.)

Above: Bob Zahner, former trustee of Highlands Biological Station, is pictured at Whiteside Mountain in Highlands. (Photo courtesy of The Highlander.)

Undergraduate and graduate students showing potential in environmental sciences may use the award to cover the cost of tuition, fees, internships, research and mentoring at the station.
The Highlands Biological Station, founded in 1927, is a year-round biological field station of the University of North Carolina system and has worked closely with WCU since the station became a state institution in 1976. Located on a high plateau near the town of Highlands, its principal mission is to promote research and education in biodiversity studies in the region.

Recipients of the award will be selected by Costa, in consultation with the dean of WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences. Undergraduate students who wish to enroll in the semester-in-residence program at the station must be admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute for the Environment.

“This scholarship will enable a WCU student to attend the institute,” said David Barstow, director of the Barstow Foundation. “In this pioneering program, students take courses in Southern Appalachian biogeography, conservation biology and landscape analysis.”

Students also attend a seminar on the cultural history of land use and conduct individual semester-long internship research projects.

The Barstow Foundation is a family foundation established 40 years ago in Midland, Mich., by the late E.O. Barstow, the first chemist and later board member of the Dow Chemical Co., and his wife, Florence. They started the foundation as an expression of their commitment to support worthy projects in the community and around the world, said Barstow, grandson of E.O. Barstow.

David Barstow and his wife, Marcia, were good friends of Bob Zahner. “Bob was an outstanding environmentalist in Western North Carolina,” said Barstow. “Plans are to grow the fund to additionally provide scholarships to students taking part in summer courses or research opportunities at the biological station, such as field courses and senior thesis or master’s research.”

Zahner was born in 1923, spending his childhood summers at Lake Sequoyah and his adolescence at Billy Cabin Mountain. He served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, and he completed his education at Duke University. Zahner then worked as a research scientist for the U.S. Forest Service and became a professor of forestry and natural resources at the University of Michigan and Clemson University. Zahner passed away in 2007, after living in Highlands and devoting himself to the conservation and preservation of natural resources.

For more information about the fund, contact Chris Mueller, WCU’s executive director of resource development, by telephone at (828) 227-7124 or by e-mail at To contribute to the fund, checks can be made to the “WCU Foundation” and sent to Mueller at the Office of Development, 201 H.F. Robinson Administration Building, Cullowhee, N.C. 28723.