Giving back now and for years to come

Pioneering alumna and husband set up scholarships for aspiring women leaders in fisheries and wildlife biology

Virginia DuBowy

UND alumna Virginia DuBowy (above), and her husband, Paul, are establishing a $250,000 legacy gift to interest more young women in biology and conservation. DuBowy wants women more involved in the future of conservation in North Dakota. Image courtesy of Virginia DuBowy.

Alumna Virginia Steinhaus had a unique role in UND’s history, but it never dawned on her until commencement day.

“It wasn’t until graduation when we were all standing in line and I was the only woman,” she said.

For her, it was about following her dream.

In 1977, Virginia Steinhaus DuBowy was the first woman to graduate with a bachelor of science degree in fisheries and wildlife biology. There have been many since then, and she wants to make sure it stays that way.

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of her graduation, she and her husband, Paul, have established a legacy gift of $250,000 in their will. The Virginia Steinhaus DuBowy Endowment in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology will assist undergraduate women pursuing majors in the discipline for years to come.

The awards will go towards aspiring female biologists who show a commitment to conservation of fish and wildlife resources in North Dakota.

Immediate impact

By establishing such a gift, the DuBowys are further establishing their roots where they call home. They’ve been donating to UND for years, toward both sports and academics.

“We love hockey, so we check in to see how the team is doing,” said DuBowy, born and raised in Enderlin, N.D. Numerous family members attended UND, and her uncle, Gordon Kroeber, was director of facilities for years.

“North Dakota is still home, DuBowy said. “It’s where I travel to visit home, and the school is part of that.”

When Jeff Dodson, director of development for the UND College of Arts & Sciences, called the DuBowys to thank them for their most recent donation, a discussion began about their future plans. As a philanthropic advisor of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation, Dodson seeks to create the biggest impact for donors’ contributions.

The DuBowys created what’s called a blended gift. So while they’ve established the endowment for when they’re gone, they will also be contributing more immediately through a $1,000 scholarship each year.

“They have been great to work with,” Dodson said. “They’re very passionate about their time here at UND and their intent to benefit future students.”

Virginia DuBowy

DuBowy, chief of cultural and natural resources at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, oversees  a park that spans 188-square miles in Wyoming and Montana. Image by Jonathan Welde/National Park Service, and courtesy of Virginia DuBowy.

Outdoor dreams

DuBowy’s dream since childhood was to work outdoors, interacting with nature. Growing up in a small town, she was outside whenever possible; and trips to national parks were always a highlight during family vacations.

“We’d go to Glacier, Yellowstone and sometimes up to Canada to see other parks,” recalled DuBowy, now a national park official herself. “I was always an animal lover and nature lover.”

It was at such parks where she met the rangers and biologists who would inspire her life’s goal to serve among them.

She’s never wavered.

Field education

Her time at UND only solidified her resolve to become an ecological caretaker. She described her undergraduate experience as an active one: with field trips, weekend science camps and putting classroom lessons into practice.

“It was a lot more hands-on,” DuBowy said. “We couldn’t look things up on the Internet so we relied on books and field data. That work in the field gave us interactions with biologists and wildlife experts as well.”

Being the only woman, she was never deterred from her passion.

“I’m glad I had the experiences I had,” she said. “One of my professors, (Chester Frtiz Distinguished Professor of Biology Emeritus) Dr. Richard Crawford, was very encouraging with regard to my studies.”

After her time at UND, she married Paul DuBowy in 1979. Paul was at UND for his master’s in wildlife biology; and then it was a life on the go for the couple as he completed his Ph.D. in California and then took academic positions at universities around the world.

Lives of service

Virginia’s career in the National Park Service began when she landed at Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi, where she eventually became national resources program manager. Her affinity for history and culture went hand-in-hand with her responsibilities for the natural resources of the Civil War site.

Currently, DuBowy is chief of cultural and natural resources at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area near Lovell, Wyo. Her office is a short distance from Bighorn Lake and the Wyoming/Montana border.

She oversees four historic ranches, multiple American Indian sites and miles of water, canyons and wide open spaces, plus all of its animals. Her position is administrative but she still gets out to check on the park as often as she can.

“We incorporate the cultural and natural together,” DuBowy said. “It creates a better experience for those who visit.”

Susan Ellis-Felege

UND Biologist Susan Ellis-Felege (above) thinks the scholarships created by the DuBowy’s endowment can  help increase the number of women working as fisheries and wildlife specialists. UND archival image.

Growing group

Susan Ellis-Felege, associate professor of biology at UND, works with students in regional wildlife research and conservation. To her, the DuBowys’ endowment can make a huge impact for aspiring women in biology.

“Our fisheries and wildlife biology program is known for students that go on to make a big impact in conservation by working for a variety of agencies and in leadership positions in the state, region and beyond,” she said. “Virginia is one of those alumni that fits this tradition and is especially inspiring to the young women in our program to see her successes.”

Ellis-Felege thinks the scholarships can help increase the number of women in the field, though they’re already a growing group.

DuBowy thinks wildlife conservation and management is a great profession for women.

“Life is different these days and women are able to expand their horizons,” she said. “They have more opportunities and I think we’re making strides. Looking around our network of parks, many positions of management are held by women, which is great.”