Pivotal Moments and WSU alumni

On October 9, we launched our capital campaign, Pivotal Moments. If you weren't able to join us for the launch, it was a wonderful series of events, hosted by students, faculty, leaders and alumni. Many people shared their pivotal moments, and their stories spoke of pride, opportunity and success. I wish every person at Wayne State could have been there to see these people and hear their stories. They reminded us all of why we are here; that we are part of something greater than ourselves - something that really does change lives for the better.

As always, I was enormously impressed with our students and faculty. Their talent, poise and spirit were on display throughout the events. But I also was inspired by our alumni, starting with Edmund Alyn Jones, who emceed the Hilberry kickoff and the dinner that followed. Edmund graduated with his master of fine arts in 2013, and I have the feeling that someday we'll all be asking for his autograph. And, of course, we are forever grateful for the generosity of Jim and Patricia Anderson for establishing the James and Patricia Anderson Engineering Ventures Institute in the College of Engineering. Jim is an Engineering alumnus, and his very generous $25 million donation will ensure promising students can realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

It is heartening to see our alumni give so generously of their talent and treasure. As part of the campaign, we have begun visiting alumni in cities around the country, not just to ask them to contribute (though we welcome their support), but to reconnect and share their own WSU stories. We've had visits to Chicago and New York City since the campaign launch, and both have been well attended by people happy to share their pride in, and gratitude for, their Wayne State experience. I never tire of hearing stories that start with, "If not for Wayne State…" and conclude with an alum's unique path to success. This is yet another reminder of the importance of what we do here.

We have more than 240,000 alumni throughout the world, most of whom live right here in Michigan. We are trying hard to contact as many as possible - to say hello, hear their stories, thank them for their support and, if possible, invite them to be part of Wayne State again.

One way we're hoping to reconnect is to establish a new home for Alumni Affairs. You may have seen in the news that we recently purchased the Hecker-Smiley Mansion located on the north edge of campus at Woodward and Palmer. In recognition of a generous, unrestricted gift from the Hartman estate, the property will be renamed the Hecker-Hartman Mansion. Plans aren't yet final, but we anticipate that at least part of the mansion will be put to terrific use as a home for our alumni.

No matter how this comes out, though, we are very pleased to have purchased this property. It is in great shape and will certainly be put to good use, but it also marks the border of our campus, and it would be disappointing to have another organization establish itself on this very visible site. We encourage and are always eager to collaborate with our Michigan university partners, but we really don't need another university's banners hanging on poles in the heart of our territory. Almost in jest, I sometimes remarked that we needed to guard against some other organization buying the property and converting it into something like a drug rehabilitation center (notwithstanding the fact that such centers are important and needed). You may have seen the recent story about the Fisher Mansion in Palmer Woods that was purchased for $1.6 million by an anonymous buyer. Apparently, plans are that it will become a drug rehabilitation center. I guess the made-up example I used for dramatic effect wasn't too far removed from reality after all!

I'm pleased that this historic landmark is now officially part of Wayne State. I anticipate the day will soon come when we will be very thankful for having made this investment.

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