Michigan Difference Campaign Finale
November 14, 2008
On the day the stock market plunged 777 points in its largest one-day loss ever, the University of Michigan announced it had launched 13 new businesses in the past year – more than one company a month brought to life by the technologies and inventions of Michigan faculty.
In the week that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae collapsed, the University of Michigan unveiled plans for a new international program that explores budding democracies in east European countries once shrouded by the Iron Curtain.
And on the day of the biggest financial bailout our country has seen, 15 U-M undergraduates were introduced as the latest recipients of more than 2,000 new scholarships and fellowships endowed at the University for students at all levels of their education.
The University of Michigan is an investment unlike any other. It is an enterprise that advances worthy ideals, creates productive jobs, and opens the doors to infinite possibilities for the students who walk through them.
All this, this transformative experience we call the Michigan Difference, all this is made possible with the power of philanthropy and people who believe in what we do. We are here today, and we will be here tomorrow, because of you.
And so we are celebrating. Celebrating the generosity and foresight of hundreds of thousands of Michigan alumni and friends who have come together to help transform a university known worldwide for leadership and service.
From Ann Arbor to Flint and Dearborn, we are a very different university because of this historic campaign and your generosity.
Our support for students is greater than ever, particularly with endowed scholarships and fellowships. Our oldest endowed fellowship dates back more than 100 years, and continues to make a U-M education possible for students of the 21st century.
Earlier this year, Erica Hernandez came home from a long day at her Flint-area high school to find a letter from the University. We had already told her we wanted her to be part of this fall’s incoming class, but we had more news.
Here is how she tells the story:
“I read the letter not once, but a total of five times, trying to comprehend what I had just read. The letter said that I received a $20,000 scholarship over four years at the University. Immediately my eyes, and the eyes of my mother and father, filled with tears. I am so grateful for this scholarship! You have taken such a financial burden off of my family's shoulders, and I will forever be indebted to you.”
It is tremendously reassuring to know that, because our newest scholarships and fellowships will carry on for generations, hundreds of thousands of tomorrow’s families will experience the same joy felt by Erica and her parents.
You also have shown historic support for our faculty. For the alumni gathered here, you know the impact of a Michigan education. You have experienced the questions, the energy, and the boldness of a great professor. Last spring, we approached our graduating seniors and asked them about their time at Michigan. In turn, they told us about their accomplishments, their frustrations, their suggestions, and their plans for the future.
When asked what their professors had taught them, seniors said they were leaving U-M prepared – prepared to think analytically, apply the knowledge they had gained, and acquire knowledge on their own.
Over and over, students used two common descriptors of our faculty: “Amazing” and “Changed my life.” This is the power of teaching, and by endowing hundreds of faculty positions, you have guaranteed that the University of Michigan will be able to compete for the strongest talent, anywhere in the academy, to inspire tomorrow’s students.
The Michigan Difference campaign has also led to a campus with a fresh look, but one that respects the great heritage that defines our university. Our newest facilities build on the Michigan traditions of the Diag, the Michigan Union, Burton Tower, and the Grad Library.
The buildings created by today’s campaign complement these icons of yesterday. They are spectacular, in both form and function. But what’s truly important is what happens inside our new classrooms, museums, clinics and performance halls. These buildings are where the Michigan Difference unfolds every day with intellectual capital. These facilities say to our faculty, students and staff: you will always have what you need to do your best.
Student support, faculty chairs, and new facilities are the trinity of philanthropy in higher education. But Michigan being Michigan, our donors have gone one step further.
In addition to all this generosity, you have helped change the culture of public higher education. You have agreed that for a great public university to succeed and truly make a difference, it requires private support.
It would be very easy to throw up one’s hands and say, “Why give? Why give when I already help with my tuition dollars, or my tax dollars?” As a university, we are grateful for public support. We have a compact with society, and especially the citizens of Michigan, to work on their behalf and promote the greater good. It is an obligation we are privileged to fulfill.
We also recognize that state and federal budgets are strained, with more demands than dollars. With that, we face financial pressures and difficult choices, with the overriding priority that academic excellence always comes first. That is why philanthropy is so important, and why your faith in our university is so invaluable.
Our three campuses have been blessed with support from alumni and students, faculty and staff, corporations and foundations. Our retirees in particular have shown a love for Michigan that is second to none. We have received gifts of 10 dollars and gifts of 100 million. Each and every one of these gestures is special, not because of the amount but because of the value of stepping forward to make a difference in the life of our institution.
Thank you for ensuring our role in improving tomorrow’s world. Thank you for investing in our future. Thank you for caring.
The greatest gift you have given the University of Michigan is your confidence – confidence in our mission to enrich the student experience, advance health and well-being, fulfill the promise of science and technology, inspire a life of arts and culture, and prepare tomorrow’s leaders.
Hail to you, for being the Michigan Difference.