Current Gift News
Graduates Show Their Support for Students
Dick and Linda Dyer grew up in Dearborn. Both graduated from Dearborn Public Schools and attended UM-Dearborn.
Now retired in Amherst, New Hampshire, the couple is giving back to their alma mater by establishing the Richard and Linda Dyer Scholarship. The Scholarship will provide $5,000 per year for four years to one 2010 Dearborn Public Schools graduate who enrolls in UM-Dearborn’s College of Arts, Sciences and Letters (CASL).
“We have a strong connection with Dearborn, the high schools and CASL,” says Dick Dyer. “We wanted to give something to the community and thought a donation to the Dearborn cam- pus would meet the greatest need.”
Dick earned a B.A. in Mathematics and a teaching certificate from UM-Dearborn in 1964, as well as an M.A. from UM-Ann Arbor. Linda earned a B.A. in English from UM-Ann Arbor in 1961. After working for three years as a children’s librarian, she enrolled in UM-Dearborn and earned her teaching certificate in 1965.
The couple lived in Dearborn until 1973. Although they both taught in the public schools during the early years of their marriage (Dick in Dearborn and Linda in Livonia), each eventually followed other careers and interests — switches made possible, Dick says, by the broad-based and rich liberal arts education they got through CASL.
Dick easily moved into the business world and became fascinated by the growing field of information technology. The Dyers moved to the East Coast so Dick could pursue an IT career, eventually launching his own computer business. Linda’s primary focus at that time was raising their two children, but in the early 1980s she began writing professionally, publishing both prose and poetry.
“The scholarship is very much keyed into the belief that the world changes and people have a lot of different jobs during their careers,” says Dick. “Liberal Arts programs like CASL give students a broader understanding of the world — not only an appreciation of the facts, but how to find them. That is the education that enriched both of our lives, and we want to support a young person who is interested in following a similar path.”
The Dyers have remained connected to the maize and blue throughout the years, mostly through trips sponsored by the UM Alumni Association. But Dick says it was a recent visit to Michigan for a Mathematics and Statistics Department event that inspired them to think about what they might do to support the cam- pus and its liberal arts program.
“It is exciting and unusual for us to have a privately funded scholarship like this,” says Diane Gulyas, director of Development for CASL. “The Dyers want to have a large impact on a single student, and they will accomplish that through this generous gift.”
The experience so far has been gratifying, Dick says. He and Linda have also used their involvement with UM-Dearborn to teach their young grandchildren about the importance of philanthropy. He beams when he talks about a granddaughter who offered to give her toys to charity because “she said she didn’t need that many.”
“They are learning that it is important to give what you can to make a difference,” says Dick.
Funds for the Mosaic Project
Like many students who attended UM-Dearborn in the 1970s, Bonnie (’75 B.S.) and Eric Szilagy (’75 B.S.) spent much of their time between classes at the cafeteria. It is where they studied and made friendships that have lasted a lifetime. It is also where they fell in love.
More than three decades later, much has changed on campus. The Financial Services office in the Administration Building is located where the cafeteria used to be. A new Science Learning and Research Center has been built, replacing the portables that were used for many of the science classes Bonnie and Eric attended.
And yet the Szilagys are doing their part to make certain that CASL students and others who visit the university still have a common space to meet and get to know each other.
They are among a close-knit group of graduates who banded together to fund the Mosaic Project, located in the lobby of the Science Learning and Research Center. Their effort went a long way toward helping put the finishing touches on a brand-new building.
“It is very dramatic, eye catching,” says Bonnie Szilagy, who is retired from Novi Community School District after a long IT career. “The mosaic is in a very public place where students can appreciate it, as they are gathering together to share their daily experiences, just like we used to do every day in the cafeteria.”
The effort to raise the funds began several years ago with Mike Kilbourn (’75 B.S.). He met his wife Barbara (’75 B.A.) at UM-Dearborn and together they have been lifelong friends of the Szilagys.
Kilbourn, now a professor of Radiology at UM-Ann Arbor, says that project appealed to him because it allowed CASL science alumni to leave a concrete legacy on campus.
“We were part of the first freshmen CASL class (1971), and as the campus was growing we spent a lot of class time in portables and a lot of our social time in the cafeteria,” he says. “Those places are gone, but now we have a true dedicated science building – and being able to own a piece of it after all these years resonated with me.”
Eric Szilagy, now a surgeon working within the Henry Ford Health System, says a tour of campus sealed the deal.
“It had been a while since we had been on campus and it was nice to see that the campus was growing,” he says. “We felt this would be the right time to support something like this.”
The Szilagys say they are grateful for the opportunity to leave a mark on campus – and proud that their youngest son Benjamin, attending UM-Dearborn for the first time this fall, will occasionally cross over the mosaic on his way to class.
“When we were here, classes were so small that you got a lot of attention from your professors,” says Bonnie Szilagy. “The campus has kept that feeling, and yet has grown so much. It is nice that it is bigger, better and more developed. We always told people UM-Dearborn was a well-kept secret, but looking around campus today you can tell that the secret has gotten out.”
New fund allows SOAR students to “Reach for the Stars”
Students in CASL’s Student Outreach and Academic Resources (SOAR) program found themselves with additional resources available this year as they began the academic year.
The “Reach for the Stars Fund” was developed by UM-Dearborn CASL alumna Deborah Taylor ’70, in honor of her grandmother Elizabeth Power Clute and provides funding in three major areas, all of which will empower students and prepare them for their fulfilling careers. Previously in 1992 Taylor established a scholarship to assist returning women students in honor of her mother Velda Taylor.
“Elizabeth Clute was a powerful woman who thought creatively and outside of the box, said Taylor. “She balanced it all as a wife and mother who knew how to give love and support living through the turbulence of two world wars and the Great Depression all while maintaining her sense of humor – she would want all people to reach for the stars.”
“This fund will provide our SOAR students with so many additional opportunities,” said Ellen Judge-Gonzalez, director, SOAR Program. “It will allow us to fulfill a long wish list in a number of crucial areas that will advance the learning experience and future prospects for our students.”
First, critical difference funding is available for students that have a distinct need that is impacting their ability to finish their degree. Students also have the opportunity to apply for funds that foster creative thinking with an emphasis on developing projects that focus on giving back to the community. Finally, SOAR students will be able to locate mentors and participate in leadership development opportunities.
“This fund will allow SOAR students to develop into individuals marked with integrity, independence and leadership skills,” said Taylor. “In honoring my grandmother, who was a strong woman far ahead of her time, I’m interested in inspiring the students with my maternal family life experiences and encouraging them to take charge of their future while putting creative ideas in practice for the betterment of others.”
The mission of the SOAR program is to increase access to post-secondary education for non-traditional adult learners in the metro area experiencing socioeconomic challenges. The program facilitates admission to the university using a holistic model and retains admitted students by offering a wide range of academic, financial, and personal support.
Gift Expands Service Learning Internships with Local Nonprofit Organizations
Students will have new opportunities to gain hands-on experience in nonprofit management as part of their coursework, thanks to a generous gift from a College of Business alumnus and his wife.
Gary (‘63 B.B.A.) and Joanne Wagerson’s $25,000 gift will be used to expand service learning internships with local nonprofit organizations, says Dean Kim Schatzel. Ford Motor Company, Deloitte and Masco have provided matching funds.
The service-learning approach to education combines traditional coursework with hands-on experiences at nonprofit organizations that will benefit from student assistance. In a marketing course with a service-learning component, for example, students working in teams might apply their classroom knowledge to help a nonprofit tackle a specific marketing project, with supervision from their professor.
Schatzel says several faculty members already integrate service learning into their courses. The new influx of funding will allow this type of teaching and learning to grow and become a more formal part of the COB curriculum.
Joy Beatty, associate professor of organizational behavior and noted service learning expert, has been appointed to coordinate the program and serve as a link between faculty, students and area non-profit partners.
“In two years or three years, we hope we will have a series of workshops for faculty to gain competencies and assist them in development, design and delivery of these classes, and students will be able to choose more courses that have service-learning components,” says Schatzel.
Gary and Joanne Wagerson say this is exactly what they had in mind when they made the gift to the College.
Gary’s interest in service-learning was influenced by his years at UM-Dearborn, where he participated in a formal internship program at Lincoln-Mercury that he says shaped his skills and helped set the course for his career. After working for several major international companies, he founded two of his own – Wagerson & Associates in 1983; and Global Trade Development Group in 2001. Both businesses helped manufacturing clients conduct and grow their businesses overseas. He also founded First Word, a non-profit organization that provides funding to treat children who, for medical reasons, are unable to speak.
Joanne, who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Spanish and a Ph.D. in reading, is co-founder of the nonprofit organization Beyond Basics, a literacy organization that was already working with the COB on several projects. Beyond Basics helps bring struggling Detroit Public School students to grade level in subjects like reading and math.
Helping to expand and strengthen the College’s link to local nonprofits – while at the same time, enhancing the skills and experiences of COB students – was a natural fit for the philanthropic couple.
“The College knew that we are interested in helping all kinds of kids,” Joanne says. “We both know from experience that the very best model for college students to learn about nonprofit work is when a professor is involved. It is a really powerful way of learning that helps the community and the students. And it helps college students feel that they have the power to make a difference.”
Adds Schatzel, “They are a terrific family with a strong sense of giving back that has been part of their lives forever. For us, working with them has been such a terrific pleasure. This initiative was in great part sparked by their funding, and they have inspired us to take service learning to this new level.”