Spotlight on Math and Science: R.B. Annis Foundation Gift Supports Continued Excellence in Math and Science

R.B. Annis Foundation Gift Supports Continued Excellence in Math and Science

Artistic performances and presentations at Interlochen Arts Academy often overshadow academic coursework, but through nearly five decades, thousands of Academy students have been inspired by their work offstage - in math, physics, chemistry, biology and ecology. This winter, the math and science department is enjoying a rare moment in the spotlight with recognition, and a new $150,000 grant from the science-focused R.B. Annis Foundation of Indianapolis, Indiana. In total, the foundation has given nearly $600,000 to Interlochen over the last decade.
The recent gift is especially significant because it will increase the Annis Endowment to $400,000. Funds from the endowment will support ongoing programmatic costs including professional development and the purchase of computers, software and equipment. The gift also provides for the continuation of the Annis Student and Teachers Enrichment Program (A-STEP,) which promotes learning opportunities outside the classroom and has taken students on science experiences as far away as Australia. The department will also be named in honor of Robert B. Annis, a self-taught scientist and entrepreneur, and lifelong believer in science education who passed away in 1993. 

“Many people just don’t realize that the Arts Academy has a top-notch program in math and science,” explained Chuck Angus, a member of the board of directors for the R.B. Annis Foundation. “It is a wonderful thing to see the creative young minds at Interlochen have access to this kind of educational opportunity.”  

In the math and science program at the Academy, the faculty emphasize active learning and hands-on experiences that draw on the unusual combination of resources available at Interlochen. Students study the principles of physics by analyzing dance. They study sound waves and acoustics by building their own musical instruments. They study ecology by hiking through the wooded campus. “We are always cognizant of the fact that we work with some of the world’s most creative young minds,” said Steve Tavener, chair of the math and science department. “It is our challenge as teachers to tap into that intense curiosity that has made the students so successful in their art. Our goal is for students to leave with a life-long interest in math, chemistry, physics, biology and ecology.”

Chuck Angus felt that the gift to Interlochen was a fitting one that reflects positively on the legacy of a gifted scientist. "Through his entire life, Bob Annis found great joy in doing creative work in the physical sciences."

Angus was first introduced to Robert Annis by his uncle, D.J. Angus, a highly respected engineer and close friend and mentor to Annis. In the late 1920s, D.J. Angus helped young Robert Annis return to high school after dropping out due to financial difficulties. Annis went on to earn his diploma and eventually founded the R.B. Annis Instrument Co. of Indianapolis, Indiana. D.J. Angus and Robert Annis were active in the Scientech Club of Indianapolis, a group of scientists and engineers that promotes interest and fellowship in science, medicine and engineering. They left a legacy of promoting interest and participation in science.