Chemistry, Charity and the Best Choice

Dr. Diana Nevins

Dr. Diana Nevins

Dr. Diana Nevins is frank about her decision to attend Iowa State University. It was not her first choice.

"Iowa State was my 'safety' school," she admitted. "I was accepted to two other 'prestigious' schools, but my parents didn't have enough money to send me there."

Today, Nevins considers Iowa State the best choice.

"I received a great education," said Nevins, who graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1985. She always wanted to be a doctor, but she felt a pre-medical major was too limiting. "I wanted a major that was marketable beyond a medical degree," she said. Majoring in chemistry was an easy pick for Nevins, who liked the subject in high school and received support from Iowa State chemistry professor Robert Angelici for her decision.

Gilman HallShe enjoyed her classes and professors at Iowa State, even when one lab experiment went awry. Nevins and her lab partner were working with a chemical compound for an assignment, when, "We saw the gas pouring out the end of the tube," Nevins remembered. The fume hood in the lab had malfunctioned and Gilman Hall had to be temporarily evacuated.

Other experiments also garnered Nevins and her classmates attention, but were far less harrowing.

As a member of the student-organized Society of Chemistry Undergraduate Majors (SCUM), Nevins was part of a chemistry-themed magic show that drew crowds at Veishea and local elementary schools. SCUM students made their own costumes, sets and puppets — creating their version of The Muppet Show, a television program by puppeteer Jim Henson that aired during the late 1970s. Nevins, who played a wizard, and her fellow student actors joked with their puppet co-stars while demonstrating basic chemical reactions using phenanthrene, white phosphorus and liquid nitrogen.

After graduating from Iowa State, Nevins received a master's degree in molecular, cellular and developmental biology and a medical degree from Penn State University. She now works in pathology at Methodist Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska, where she has served since completing her fellowship nearly 17 years ago.

Nevins gave back to Iowa State when she could, even during the lean years as a medical student. "They were small amounts, but it made sense because I wanted to support Iowa State and I didn't have a lot of money," Nevins said.

A hurricane changed things.

In 2005, Nevins was reading comments on an online message board about Hurricane Katrina and the loss people suffered along the Gulf Coast. Moved by the need of those who had lost so much and now working as a physician making a better income than when she was a student, Nevins wrote a check to Katrina relief and decided to make charitable giving part of her financial planning.

Since then, she has established the Dr. Diana L. Nevins Scholarship in Physical and Life Sciences at Iowa State. She made her gift in three parts, providing short-term funding so the scholarship could be awarded right away, building a permanent fund to ensure the scholarship continues into the future and designating funds to be added later through her estate plan.

Student in lab

1987: Student Jim Thoden creates color reactions in a SCUM chemistry show.

Nevins believes more students should consider Iowa State, which offers an outstanding education and is more affordable than private schools. Scholarships will help keep it that way, Nevins points out. "If state legislatures are cutting back on funding and we want to keep educational costs under control, individuals are going to have to fill in the gap. We can make a difference."

As a proud Cyclone, Nevins said it is rewarding to help others who have chosen Iowa State University. "Going to Iowa State turned out to be a wonderful thing," said Nevins of her experience. "Iowa State is where my heart is."

Choose to Make a Difference

Whether you give to scholarships, faculty or facilities, a gift in your will elevates the exceptional education for which Iowa State is known and makes a significant difference in the lives of students. To learn more, contact the office of gift planning at 800.621.8515 or