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Donor Spotlight: George and Kris Byrns, health sciences

The College of Applied Science and Technology is grateful for the generous donors that give back its education programs. One such donor is George Byrns, director of the Environmental Health Program, and professor in the Department of Health Sciences.

Byrns and his wife, Kris, awarded the first Environmental Health Discovery Scholarship in 2007, and they endowed the scholarship in 2013. When Byrns was an undergraduate student at Colorado State University, he thought he wanted to be a veterinarian. That dream ended when he realized he would never have the grade point average to be admitted into the program. He then drifted through three other majors before discovering the environmental health major. This program was started by two retired environmental health commissioned officers, formerly with the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). Byrns said, “From the moment I took my first environmental health class, I felt gratitude for my good fortune in finding the major and felt a desire to someday give back to the profession.”

From the moment I took my first environmental health class, I felt gratitude for my good fortune in finding the major and felt a desire to someday give back to the profession.

He also wanted to follow in his professors’ footsteps by joining the USPHS upon graduation, so he made that a top priority in his career. Byrns secured a position as an environmental health officer with the USPHS, Indian Health Service, and, after a 25-year career, he finished graduate school. Upon graduating from graduate school, Byrns accepted a faculty position in the Environmental Health Program in the Department of Health Sciences at Illinois State University.

The Environmental Health Discovery Scholarship goes to a student who shows potential as a future environmental health professional. It is also a scholarship that forces the recipient to think about why they would be an effective environmental health professional. The scholarship is unique because it is an award that pays $500 per semester, for up to two years.

Byrns said, “My hope is that award winners will come to understand that they are in  a major that not only has great career potential, but one that will make a positive difference in assessing and controlling hazards in our environment.”

Interested in giving back? Contact Heather Hartman, director of development for the College of Applied Science and Technology.

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