Investing in the Next Generation

11/28/2017

Fifty years in the making, one alumnus gives back to where it all began.

Bruce and Carol Whitaker

Bruce Whitaker [B.B.A. ‘68] credits three things in his early life that led to success and happiness. Two of them include the UM-Dearborn College of Business and are the main reasons he is giving back to the university.

While pursuing his degree, Whitaker not only learned accounting skills, but he also developed the ability to critically think through problems and situations. Second, a formal internship with Mobil Oil, for which he received a Certificate of Internship, gave him practical experience to couple with his academic work for use in the real world.

His education would not be the easiest of tasks. The first in his family to graduate from college, he had no role models upon which to base his academic future. But at UM-Dearborn, his small graduating class of 25-30 students and dedicated instructors gave him all he needed. On a recent visit back to the campus, he saw those values are still in place. To that end, Bruce and his wife Carol are creating the UM-Dearborn - College Of Business Endowed Scholarship.

“I saw that UM-Dearborn, after all these years, is still aiming to help the first generation,” he says. “It is still ethnically different with a working-class background. The mission statement of today describes what UM-Dearborn was to me in 1965, welcoming a big variety of students with an opportunity. I’m happy to support that.”

“I realized when I taught accounting to students and helped them get jobs, I was giving them a better future," Whitaker says. "I was giving back that which University of Michigan-Dearborn gave to me 50 years ago.”

Dean Raju Balakrishnan was thrilled when he heard about the endowment. He sees this as an investment in the university’s students - and the next generation.

“It’s truly a case of paying it forward,” Dean Balakrishnan says. “He and his wife feel it is important that they in turn give opportunities for success.”

The scholarship, Dean Balakrishnan says, will be a perpetual source of funds for students at the COB. Many are from underprivileged backgrounds, and many work to pay for their education.

“The Whitakers are very special people and we sincerely appreciate their support of our students,” he says.

Whitaker’s third pillar of success was rounded out in the Peace Corps, where he spent two years in Jamaica, teaching accounting skills to fishermen. These skills would help the fishermen to grow their businesses and apply for grants to fund deep-sea fishing boats, allowing them to venture farther away from the over-fished coast.

Bruce and Carol met after his service, while he was training her and others to be part of the Peace Corps. He later obtained his Ed.D. from Virginia Tech, and the couple developed careers teaching at small colleges around the world, both starting their college teaching careers as assistant professors at Berry College in Georgia. He taught business. She taught nutrition. Neither was seeking tenure; they both sought to prepare students for their futures.

The couple taught at Eastern New Mexico University and Dine College in Arizona and worked in American Samoa, Fiji and Eugene, Oregon. They retired to Hawaii and then returned to Eugene, Oregon to be able to ski. But Dearborn was still on Bruce’s mind.

“I realized when I taught accounting to students and helped them get jobs, I was giving them a better future," Whitaker says. "I was giving back that which University of Michigan-Dearborn gave to me 50 years ago.”

He may be retired from teaching, but the fruits of his labors will be blossoming for years to come. The scholarships provided through this gift will give future students the support they need to see their lives begin, just like Bruce Whitaker.