Ashburn Foundation commits $75,000 to the HudsonAlpha Foundation Decade of Discovery

In celebration of 10 years, the James Cecil and Margaret G. Ashburn Foundation has committed $75,000 to name the Digital Lab in the newest building on the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology campus, the Paul Propst Center at 800 Hudson Way. John Ashburn, Cecil and Margaret Ashburn’s nephew, took some time to answer a few questions about why they decided to give to the Decade of Discovery campaign.

What inspired the foundation to support HudsonAlpha? How does the mission of the foundation align with HudsonAlpha?

There are several reasons why our foundation decided to support HudsonAlpha. Our foundation was established by Cecil and Margaret Ashburn, two lifelong residents of our area whose families had been here for generations. As such, we have primarily focused our contributions locally in the Huntsville and Madison County area.

While the impact of HudsonAlpha is worldwide, it is foremost a Huntsville-based organization. Secondly, anyone that knew our founder, Cecil Ashburn, knows he was always fascinated by science and was always reading books on all subjects. I recall he had a book on genomics before most people had ever heard of it. But beyond that, what interested him the most was the practical application of science in making a difference in people’s lives. We saw this first hand when we toured the clinic and heard stories about how HudsonAlpha had helped people who had previously been without hope.

Was there a particular reason the foundation chose to name the digital lab?

We envision the digital lab being an immersive space for learning. Our hope is that it is a place that ignites a spark in our youth that leads to the next generation of great scientists.

Is education important to the foundation and where do you see HudsonAlpha’s vision for education fitting into that mission?

Education has always been one of the top priorities for our foundation. Our founder, Cecil Ashburn, was a strong supporter of both public and private education. He was a member of the school board in the late 50s and was chairman in 1962. He also donated 100 acres to Madison Academy and their campus is named for him. We have attempted to carry out his vision by supporting education by contributing to both schools and the Huntsville Public Library.

He was also a visionary as his company was one of the first locally to use computers and to be involved in recycling. I think HudsonAlpha’s vision for education is something our foundation is proud to support.

What do you hope for HudsonAlpha’s future?

Our hope for HudsonAlpha is that they continue to make breakthroughs in genetic research. But even more important, that they continue to use these breakthroughs to make a difference in people’s lives. It is through the practical application of science where lives are changed and where families once without hope, are given hope. Because of this we are proud of the difference HudsonAlpha is making in our world.

Thanks to the Ashburn Foundation for their grant to support the Decade of Discovery. If you would like more information about this campaign, contact the HudsonAlpha Foundation at [email protected] or visit