Burton and Western students.
Western alumnus Paul Burton (center), a biologist, scientist, professor and former chair of the biology department at the University of Kansas, discusses his gift of new microscopes and scientific equipment that will soon be purchased by the biology department through funds he contributed. With Burton are students (from left to right) Carolyn DeSimon, Philip Drummond, Barclay Taylor, Victor Agraz and Sara Martin.

CULLOWHEE – Students in Western Carolina University's biology labs soon will get a better look at their slides and specimens, thanks to the generosity of alumnus Paul Burton, a biologist, scientist, professor and former chair of the biology department at the University of Kansas.

In addition to funds Burton has provided for a series of annual seminars, support for faculty research and donations for supplies for senior thesis projects, he recently contributed $10,000 to help the university replace old, worn-out microscopes with state-of-the-art instruments in Western's teaching labs.

Burton, who grew up in Yancey County, came to Western for a degree in physical education and biology. After graduating from Western in 1954, he went out of state for a master's degree and came back to earn his doctorate in zoology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  His teaching and research took him to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Kansas, where he was a pioneer in the study of cell biology.  Burton speaks enthusiastically about his work on tiny structures called microtubules, which he describes as “the railroad tracks” that carry cargo along neurons and help to maintain the health of those cells that can be up to a yard long.

What brings Burton back to Western is his gratitude for the strong support he received here as an undergraduate more than 50 years ago.  “There were two professors – Gerald Eller and Clint Dodson -- who were mentors. They gave me a lot of encouragement and urged me to go on to graduate school,” he says, and that's where his long and successful career began.

In return, Burton says, “I'm pleased to be able to support the biology department at Western.  I would like it to be one of the best in the state.”

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Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Western Carolina University