Long before COVID-19, Jeff Corkill, a professor of biochemistry, knew spring 2020 was going to be his final time in the lab. After 39 years of service to Eastern Washington University, he is set to retire this summer. Even so, Corkill never imagined his final lab project would involve making an alcohol-based sanitizer to help the community stay safe during a pandemic.

“So, it’s sad in a way,” Corkill says. “It’s not the way I wanted to end my career, but that’s the way it is.”

The chemist didn’t want to let Zoom lectures—something he doesn’t enjoy nearly as much as the face-to-face interaction in the classrooms—define his last quarter on campus. So, he teamed up with lab manager Fred Joslin in the Science Building to mix up a batch of “Eagle Sanitizer” for distribution.

Joslin (left) and Corkill in the lab

“This something we as chemists can do, relatively easily,” says Joslin. “The thing that’s so new to us is the scale of it.”

While Corkill and Joslin rounded up the supplies, their idea soon turned into a collaborative effort across campus. Visual communication design professor Mindy Breen enlisted a student, Danielle Flinn, to create a design for the sanitizer labels to affix to the plastic containers holding the solution. And the university received an in-kind donation from Instant Sign Factory of Spokane to print off those labels.

For Flinn, a senior, this project gave her a chance to showcase the university that has helped her achieve her goals, while lending a hand during this crisis.

“I’m really thankful I’ve had the opportunity to work on this cross-discipline project, both to promote fostering similar projects across our university in the future, to promote our university as a whole, and of course to support our surrounding community during these uncertain times,” Flinn says.

Soon, Corkill and Joslin were in the lab mixing up the special sanitizer as several members of the local press looked on from a safe distance. They produced both 650ml bottles (22fl oz.) and smaller 280 ml bottles (11fl oz.) for distribution. They hope to make more soon.

“So, it’s my last contribution to Eastern in a way,” says Corkill, who kept asking himself what he could to do help without putting himself at risk. “It’s a way of doing something during the crisis.”

The free hand sanitizer, which meets U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines, will be made available to those most in need.   

“It’s a small contribution to the community and hopefully it might save someone’s life,” says Joslin.


You can send an email to sanitizer@ewu.edu to inquire about receiving some “Eagle Sanitizer.”

Please continue to share your Eagle Strong stories with us! You can submit a story at inside@ewu.edu and visit ewu.edu/strong to learn more about the university’s efforts.