Endowment supports natural history museum collection in Colorado Springs

Jon and Helen PigageNatural history museums provide access to specimens and information about the vast range of living and extinct organisms in our world. They also offer a wealth of opportunities for hands-on learning for students of all ages, from local school visits where adults and kids alike can dissect owl pellets to undergraduate students who can run their fingers over the teeth in a coyote skull.

This need for a hands-on learning environment is what inspired the late Associate Professor Jon Pigage to establish a museum teaching collection at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Now his legacy is inspiring future generations of those who are curious about our natural world, just as he was.

His wife, Helen Pigage, who is an adjunct associate professor of biology at UCCS, said Jon loved hiking, wildlife watching and photography both locally and during annual visits to Yellowstone National Park. He was also a talented amateur woodworker and a Civil War buff. But most importantly, he was a respected scholar and mentor to generations of students at UCCS, where he taught human anatomy and physiology, animal physiology, mammalogy and ecology courses from 1994 until right before his passing from cancer in early 2018.

Planned gifts from his loved ones are ensuring that Jon's legacy endures.

Gifts from Jon's sister, Ellen Elliott, and Helen support the interests and career goals of UCCS students who go on to diverse careers in biology, medicine, wildlife management, physiology and zoology. An endowment they established supports student awards and conferences in the department, as well as the expansion of the museum now named in his honor.

Jon Pigage"The credit goes to Jon, and we're just helping to bring it to reality," said Ellen, who would often visit the UCCS museum with Jon on her visits to Colorado.

The Jon C. Pigage Museum of Natural History and Wildlife Laboratory at UCCS contains hundreds of specimens, most collected and assembled by Jon and former students. Today Helen continues Jon's work cataloging and digitizing the collection with the help of UCCS students and faculty.

His family said Jon would be pleased to see UCCS students and the public using the museum collection he started to learn and understand the world around them. Jon also wanted the museum to help strengthen ties between the university and community, and planned gifts to CU are helping accomplish that.

"I think it's important folks realize you can make a gift that ends up helping people down the line with lasting results," Helen said.

Making a planned gift is easier than you think. To learn more, contact the Office of Gift Planning at (303) 541-1229 or giftplanning@cu.edu.