Giving thanks to UM-Dearborn donors

June 17, 2019

Celebrating Donors recognizes alumni and friends for their generosity and commitment to UM-Dearborn

This article was originally published in The Michigan Journal. 

By Chanel Stitt

“The feeling of belonging is so rewarding, that we wonder how else we can give,” said Lee Gorman, a donor to the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Gorman and her husband, Mark Ritz, both contributed to the remodeling of the Engineering Lab Building, which is set to open in 2020. Their contribution to this campus has made a mark, just like all donors, that make UM-Dearborn what it is.

Celebrating Donors was held on Thursday, June 6 to give thanks to those that donate to the University in many ways, through scholarship, infrastructure, resources, faculty, students and more.

Student presenters lined the room to display projects that are taking place at UM-Dearborn. Some of those included the Student Food Pantry, Obesity in Children & Sleep Habits and Athletics. In particular, the Michigan Aeronautical Science Association receives direct assistance from donors by the purchasing of rocket components.

“With the support of our donors, we’ve had now four people work at NASA,” said Trent Bekker, a Mechanical Engineering major. “I just got back from a NASA internship.”

The program has been on campus since September 2015, and they expressed continuous gratitude for their donors.

“They allow for programs like ours to thrive and improve as the years go on as we get more funding to have new experiences that help with our education,” said Sierra Stockwell, a Mechanical Engineering and Environmental Science major.

Another student, Lena Rammouni, spoke about her journey during her studies at UM-Dearborn and how donors have impacted her immensely. During high school, her father suffered a stroke. As she watched him recover, she knew she wanted to become a physician. Through donors and scholarship, she was able to achieve earning her degree in April.

“Receiving scholarships has greatly reduced the financial burden on my family, given me peace of mind, and allowed me to continue my education, and to pursue my dream of becoming a physician,” said Lena Rammouni.

She says, her success in the future has been insured and she hopes to one day give back, just as donors have done for her.

Lelahni Wessinger, a donor and the wife of John Wessinger, donates because of her late husband who was the chair of the COB Co-op at UM-Dearborn. The Wessinger scholarship is dedicated to business interns because “he loved to mentor students.” Lelahni Wessinger says many companies that her husband worked with are still taking UM-Dearborn students today.

“I love what this University does to help first-generation college students, people who are working and now are trying to get back and get an education,” said Wessinger.

Earnest Sanders, Jr. was at the event to honor Professor Angela J. Allen who taught Organic Chemistry at UM-Dearborn. Allen now has a scholarship that honors her dedication to the University. During her 22 years of teaching, Allen was involved in the Women’s Resource Center and the SOAR program.

The Women’s Resource Center has been helping people since 2003 and the SOAR office has been thriving for 20 years. Many programs that are present at the University were created by those who are honored by current donors, and those programs have become even larger than before.

“Donor support is what bridges that gap between this is what’s possible today and this is what’s possible tomorrow,” said Casandra Ulbrich, the Vice Chancellor of Institutional Advancement.

This is Ulbrich’s fourth week in her position and she took this opportunity to meet the donors of the University and to celebrate the donors’ accomplishments. She says many contributions of donors go towards student affordability, learning space adequacy and accessibility.

It was also important to Chancellor Domenico Grasso to be there to greet the donors and celebrate what they have done for the University. In the midst of his daughter’s graduation, he flew in from the east coast that morning, and he planned to fly back that evening. He says donors assist the students, faculty, and help make the University what it is today.

“One of the things that donors like is seeing the impact of their gift,” said Grasso. “That’s why having these showcases of the students, getting together with other donors, hearing from me and other leadership is so important. That’s why it’s so important for me to be here.”

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