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Cougar donations feed momentum to build a world-renowned pollinator center

PULLMAN, Wash. — The world’s food supply depends in large part on pollinators including the beloved honey bee. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating hundreds of our favorite foods including apples, cherries, and blueberries. The future of vital seed crops like cabbage, onion, broccoli and carrots are reliant on the mighty honey bee as well.

Schulz, the Christianson's, and Wright hold a giant novelty check made out to WSU. They are on the football field at Martin Stadium, flanked by WSU cheerleaders.
WSU President Kirk Schulz, left, and CAHNRS Dean André-Denis Wright, right, accept a $1 million donation from WSU alums Ken & Sue Christianson at halftime of the WSU-Eastern Washington football game.

“A large proportion of seed crops rely on bees for pollination,” said Ken Christianson, a retired seed grower. “The WSU bee program really resonated with both my wife and I because the work they do is so essential to the future of agriculture.”

To ensure the momentum towards building a world class pollinator center continues, Ken and Sue Christianson are donating $1 million to help build the WSU Honey Bee and Pollinator Research Facility on WSU’s Pullman campus.

“It’s really gratifying that the Christianson’s see and understand the pioneering work that we are conducting,” said Steve Sheppard, WSU entomology professor and the head of the WSU bee program. “When we are able to build this facility, we will greatly increase our capacity to conduct research on honey bees and other pollinators at WSU.”

Ken Christianson said he and Sue heard about the program when they took a tour of the current facilities, spread around three different locations up to half a mile apart.

“The program is doing phenomenal work, despite the challenges involved in shuffling between facilities to conduct complex bee research,” Christianson said.

Both Ken and Sue are WSU alumni, he with an agronomy degree and she with a food science degree.

The new Research Facility is still in the fundraising phase, with the goal of raising $15 million to complete the planned 15,330 square foot center. The plans include demonstration gardens and a rain garden, so visitors can watch WSU bees and the researchers working.

“The Christianson’s are building a lasting legacy to the future of agriculture by getting us one step closer to the creation of a top-flight WSU pollinator center. The world’s food supply is in grave danger without a healthy pollinator population and we need the center to help save bees around the world,” stressed Dean André-Denis Wright. “Once constructed, this state-of-the-art facility will enable WSU’s excellent pollinator research program to be on the leading edge of innovation and discovery in a field of study that affects everybody around the globe.”

To learn more about the WSU honey bee and pollinator program, go to bees.wsu.edu.

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