Mary Armstrong, PhD, and Roger Boothroyd, PhD moved from New York to Florida to join the faculty at the University of South Florida Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute back in 1996. The institute, named after social and mental health services advocate Sen. Louis de la Parte, was considered a national hub for applied research on topics related to serious mental health issues among children and adults.
The pair left significant marks of their own on the university’s mental health and behavioral health programs over the next 30 years. Armstrong eventually became director of the institute, which she describes as one of her proudest achievements, and Boothroyd was a driving force behind establishing the behavioral healthcare major, the first program in the country that focused specifically on behavioral health at the undergraduate level.
Now, these two emeritus professors have continued their dedication to the institute and the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences by naming two special projects in their will. Once realized, their gift will increase the impact of The Moms Project and help fund an executive director position within the institute.
The Moms Project, which was created by Armstrong, Boothroyd and Catherine Batsche, PhD, sponsors undergraduate research scholarships in honor of the founders’ mothers. The project celebrates these three women by awarding scholarships in areas of special interest to each, including research on substance use disorders and their impact on families, nutrition and well-being, and positive aging. According to Boothroyd, the undergraduate scholarships not only assist students financially, but they also help them realize the potential for a career in behavioral health research.
“To see the progress of these students, it’s amazing what a small scholarship can do for them,” said Boothroyd. “They come up with some good ideas, and hopefully it will entice them to want to be able to continue to do this kind of work.”
The portion of the couple’s gift that will be directed toward an executive director position within the institute will help ensure continued financial support for a leader to guide behavioral health research at USF and eventually provide resources to young researchers involved in the institute.
“We both wanted to make sure that the legacy of Louis de la Parte and the work that he wanted the institute to do, continues,” said Armstrong. “That fund is not yet endowed, but that is our goal, and it would ensure that there was funding in perpetuity.”
Armstrong and Boothroyd were both first-generation college students and the first among their siblings to go to college. Because of this, they appreciate the value of education and were moved to "pay it forward” to the next generation.
“We both understand how fortunate we’ve been through our lives and through our careers,” said Boothroyd. “I would have never ever thought about being in a position to be able to do something like this. Sharing some of our successes and creating similar opportunities for others at this point just makes sense.”