STEVENS POINT — A Chippewa Falls couple’s passion for conservation and education has inspired an estate gift of $695,000 to create a scholarship endowment for students in the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the university announced this week.

The Michael and Jessina Dineen Conservation Scholarship endowment through the UWSP Foundation is expected to provide over $25,000 in scholarships each year for UW-Stevens Point students entering their senior year, according to UWSP. The students must be from the Chippewa Falls region and majoring in a natural resource-related field.

The scholarship honors the late Michael and Jessina Dineen, who grew up in Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley. They are remembered for their appreciation of the outdoors, strong conservation ethic and enjoyment of sharing it with others. Michael died in a motorcycle accident in 2001. Jessina “Jess” was the long-time band director at Chippewa Falls Middle School who died in 2015.

Christine Thomas, dean of the College of Natural Resources, said the gift creates one of the college’s largest scholarship endowments. “We are both excited and humbled by this generous gift, knowing it will support scholarships and ultimately inspire the next generation of professionals who will manage, preserve and protect our precious natural resources,” she said in a news release.

UW-Stevens Point’s College of Natural Resources features a hands-on, field-based approach to its curriculum, rooted in Wisconsin’s renowned conservation ethic. The campus has 160,000 acres of forest land, 32,000 acres of wetlands and 31,000 acres of public lands within a 20-mile radius, as well as 64 streams and 135 lakes that offer its students numerous opportunities for hands-on, real-world experience and recreational opportunities.

Photo courtesy UWSP. Trustees of the Michael and Jessina Dineen estate, Jerry Clark, Don Dukerschein and Mike Balko, present a $695,000 check to Christine Thomas, dean of UW-Stevens Point’s College of Natural Resources, and Steve Menzel, UW-Stevens Point development director.