After 20 years of teaching high school physics, Mark Butterworth, M.A. ’73, had to make a choice—stay with teaching or take his clock work full time. As much as he enjoyed teaching, he knew something was missing.
“I’d grown up in the shop with my grandfather and dad,” Mark said. “I wanted to get back to my roots.”
Those roots go deep. The Butterworths have been watchmakers and clock repairers since 1725, when they opened their first shop in England.
Mark and Sharon Butterworth
“When I started this business as a side project to my physics teaching, it was basically to repair German clock movement," said Mark. "That is where the physics background helped a great deal in understanding the mechanics of how clock movements work. I also benefited from the technical training and critical thinking I learned while studying physics.”
Now, Mark and his wife, Sharon, B.A. ’70, want to ensure physics students at their alma mater have the opportunity to develop the skills that have helped make their clock business a success.
To do this, Mark and Sharon created the Mark and Sharon Butterworth Endowed Fund to support the purchase of teaching laboratory equipment.
“The Butterworth Modern Physics Lab is now outfitted with modern equipment and it improves with each passing year,” said physics department head Dr. Paul Shand. “New equipment is being acquired and more sets of equipment for each experiment are being purchased. This represents evidence that the Department is oriented toward a future of growth, which is a very desirable characteristic.”
Mark added, “Facilities are absolutely critical. In the area of physics, if one is going to attract the top students, one is going to have to have top facilities. Physics is by its nature a very capital intensive thing.”
In addition, Mark and Sharon created the Mark and Sharon Butterworth Undergraduate Research Fellowship in Physics to support an annual research fellowship award for undergraduate physics majors.
“Undergraduate research has long been a core strength of the UNI physics program,” Shand said. “Students enrolled in the B.S. Physics program are required to engage in research. This requirement means that the Department must be able to support students who elect to do their research during the summer. Funding provided by the Butterworths is indispensable for this purpose.”
“The most rewarding aspect is always to help enable other people to have a chance that we had when we went to UNI and to give them an opportunity,” said Mark.
Mark and Sharon’s daughter, son and daughter-in-law also attended the University of Northern Iowa. They all had great experiences, and hope that many more students can enjoy their time on campus.
Sharon added, “The university is always growing. It is always progressing. There are more things offered. It is just growing, and needs the support. I think it is a diamond in the rough. It is just a super place, and it is a place where a person's financial gifts would be well worth investing.”