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Gift Will Benefit WSU, Colfax Hospital

LIND, Wash. — A $763,000 gift from Mel and Donna Camp will benefit Washington State University’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics and the Whitman Hospital and Medical Center in Colfax.

The gift to the university was announced today at the annual field day of WSU’s Lind Dryland Research Station.  The hospital gift was announced earlier in Colfax.

WSU’s portion is expected to be about $420,000.  Part of the gift — approximately $168,000 — will be deposited in the Lind Dryland Research Station Endowment.  The gift also will support weed research and field trips for crops and soils students.

“This gift is an extraordinary legacy from Mel and Donna Camp,” said Jim Zuiches, dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics.  “It will enhance dramatically the funding for research at Lind and increase the ability of faculty to take students on valuable field trips.”

The Camps farmed east of Lacrosse for 40 years before retiring and moving to Post Falls in 1985.  Last  year they deeded 1,000 acres of farmland to the WSU Foundation. The land was sold this year.  The proceeds were put into a trust which will provide the Camps with an income for 20 years.  After 20 years, the trust will be terminated.  The remaining amount will be divided with 55 percent going to WSU and 45 percent to the hospital.

In deciding to make a gift to WSU, the Camps felt they owed a debt of gratitude to Orville Vogel, who led a team of scientists in developing winter wheat varieties that dramatically increased yields in the 1960s.

Both Camps attended WSU for a short time but then married and started farming.  They credit Dr. Vogel’s wheat breeding and Gaines wheat as a main reason they were able to be successful in farming.  Yields improved greatly and they wanted to give back to WSU some of what they received.

Vogel, a plant geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture- Agricultural Research Service, was stationed at WSU from 1931-1973.

The Camps decided to put their money to work in areas that haven’t attracted much support in the College of Agriculture and Home Economics. “The Lind station not very long ago was hurting really bad,” Camp said.  “I didn’t realize it until it came out in the paper.”

The Camps’ contribution to Lind will go to an endowment created by dryland farmers to provide a stable source of operating funds for the station.

“Without a doubt, this is a tremendous boost to the Lind endowment,” said Bill Schillinger, WSU dryland research agronomist.  “This is the first estate donation.”

In its heyday, four scientists were based at the 83-year-old station and worked full-time there.  But in the past 20 years, operating funds had dried up and permanent staff dwindled to two full-time farm workers and a part-time administrative assistant.

In 1996 wheat growers from six eastern and central Washington counties created the endowment to build a permanent source of operating money.  Since then, 77 different donors have given $49,000 to the fund, which is managed at Washington State University.

Smaller portions of the Camps’ gift will support weed research and student field trips. “My faculty are just delighted at the prospect,” said Tom Lumpkin, chair of WSU’s crops and soil sciences department.  “It’s support for under-funded areas which are very important for crop production and education.

“Field trips stay in your memory decades after you graduate.  We have so few resources available for that.”

The Camps raised four children, were 4-H leaders for many years, and took an active part in their community.  Mel was on the board of the local Soil Conservation District and served as president for several years. Soil conservation has always been an important part of his farming operation.  The Camps two sons Steve and Alan are fifth generation farmers at Lacrosse.  1958 was a memorable year for them.  That spring Camp was named “Outstanding Young Farmer in Washington” by the Jaycees.  He and Donna traveled to Indianapolis where he was presented a plaque.  He received the award for his “ability in agriculture and contributions the community.”

Thirty years later — long after retirement — he is still making contributions to his community.

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