Most people find it challenging to let science and faith coexist. Science demands tangible proof, and faith only exists without it. Often those with the most sincere faith do not feel called to pursue science. Likewise, those who gravitate toward science seem to be frustrated by impalpable faith.
Clyde and Sandra Strickland have partnered with the Biology Department of Georgia Gwinnett College and found a way to nurture both. They forged a seemingly unlikely bond as a catalyst to propel the young minds of the students further. In a gesture of earnest gratitude, GGC, in turn, dedicated the newly renovated space to their patron - The Strickland Research Lab.
Among the improvements to the lab, the Biology Department changed the layout of a few rooms to have a dark room needed for fluorescent microscopy. With the Strickland’s generous donation they were able to purchase two Biosafety Cabinets, a flow cytometer, a plate washer, a fluorescent cell counter, and renovate the lab space.
Most of us may barely understand what these pieces of equipment do. However, the giddy energy radiating from each member of this department is explanation enough about the value that each addition to the lab brings to the education for the students. The President of GGC, Dr. Stanley Preczewski, even noticed the Christmas-like frenzy buzzing amongst the Biology Department.
In most larger colleges and universities, TAs and faculty are the only ones who can even approach equipment like this. One of the beautiful pillars of GGC is the personal, one-on-one attention and interaction the students get with their professors. Here in the Biology Department, students will watch these tests run and participate more than is possible at larger universities. Hands-on learning makes it stick; participation can amplify education. As Dr. Elisabeth Javazon, who specializes in immunobiology, explained, the professors there don’t want just to lecture at the students and have them regurgitate facts. She says, “hopefully we will not just teach a class, but train our students to become scientists who then go out and make a difference in the community. Perhaps they will solve the bigger problems that loom out in the real world.” Dr. Chris Brandon, a reproductive physiologist, admits that the research that the department plans “would never get off the ground without the additions made possible by the contributions of the Strickland’s.”
Dr. Javazon, Dr. Brandon, and the rest of the GGC Biology Department scrutinize biological creatures in painstakingly specific ways. With the new equipment, their investigation delves into mind-boggling details. They probe profoundly and insatiably into the whys and hows of living creatures, taking their students with them in their quest. However, when Clyde explains his reason for giving, his explanation was steeped in faith and already acquired understanding. “God is so good,” Clyde resolves, “He provides all this stuff, and we just have to use it. Stay in His good grace, and good things keep happening. Give your part, and He will pour you with blessings. This [donation]...is just me doing my part.” Clyde has a fascinating education journey - he went from a high school dropout to being honored as Teacher of the Year not once, but twice. Both he and his wife continue to learn themselves and also nurture education for others every chance they get. According to Sandra, “the students are the ones who inspire me. I’m 73, and every day I learn something new.” While the Strickland’s’ faith is unquestionable, they use their conviction, and all the blessings that have followed, to encourage others to question the world around them because that is what education is - questioning and learning and proving and questioning again. Clyde came from nothing. At one point he almost lost everything. Through that he learned that “education is something that nobody can take from you.”
Anyone who spends even brief time with Clyde will realize his faith—it pours from him most genuinely. There is a delight in him that cannot be silenced and cannot be dampened. Clyde came from nothing. In his own words, he was “poorer than dirt.” With hard work, grit, persistence, and faith, he forged a new direction for his path. He now has wealth to spare and is on a mission to make education possible to as many as possible to change their trajectory just as he did. Clyde and Sandra Strickland have countless philanthropic projects going on in Gwinnett, and they almost all center around education in some way. Clyde believes that knowledge is the best path toward a better life. His faith calls him to share his blessings in the form of cultivating education for others. In his mind, science and faith are not mutually exclusive. For Clyde, they are inseparable.