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Summer 2003
Chairs of Distinction
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Micro financing is another project area she is investigating. “Micro financing can make huge changes in the power dynamics in families,” she explains. “Even a very small loan can affect the poor by providing capital to start a small business.” This can have a major impact on women, she adds. “A woman who earns money has more power, which gives her more choices in such things as when, or if, she marries, has children, uses birth control. I think this will be an important project in the long run.”

The chair — the first for the School of Public Health — was funded by the Bixby Foundation, which was established in the will of Fred H. Bixby. Bixby, scion of the pioneer Southern California family that established the Bixby Ranch Co., was interested in population control and family planning, says John Warren, a foundation trustee.

“Fred Bixby considered [overpopulation] to be one of the major problems facing society,” Warren explains. “In our early years, I think we were the only foundation in America that was devoted exclusively to population control and family planning.”

Studying population trends is critical to society, Pebley agrees. “The dramatic growth in the world’s population in the past 50 years has put great stress on environmental resources. It has also changed social institutions. What are the social consequences of that growth?”

Because the endowment is not tied to a specific research project, “starting something new or innovative is possible,” she says. “This lets you take risks. And in research, taking risks is really important.”

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