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Wallenberg honored with humanitarian fellowship

By Peter Shahin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 30, 2012

At her annual leadership breakfast Tuesday morning, University President Mary Sue Coleman announced a host of new initiatives, ranging from renovations of the Earl V. Moore building on North Campus to a new fellowship for undergraduate students in honor of University alum Raoul Wallenberg.

During the 45-minute speech before a gathering of University executives, senior faculty and select students in the Colloquium Room of the Ross School of Business, Coleman continued to refer back to the spirit of Wallenberg, a 1935 University graduate. During the Holocaust, the Swedish-born Wallenberg worked in his capacity as a diplomat to save 100,000 Jews from concentration camps. He was arrested by the Soviets and never released.

Coleman said the world is still seeking answers about Wallenberg's death, but noted that he directly helped save Andrew Nagy, a professor emeritus of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, who was a teenager during the war.

In honor of Wallenberg's courage, Coleman announced that the University would establish an undergraduate fellowship. Though criteria for the award has yet to be finalized, each year, one graduating senior who has demonstrated a commitment to public service is eligible to receive a $25,000 stipend to pursue humanitarian interests anywhere in the world. The award will begin with this year’s graduating class.

The University previously honored Wallenberg in 1990 through the establishment of his namesake medal and lecture. The medal is awarded yearly to individuals from around the world for a variety of political, charitable, humanitarian and cultural achievements. Previous recipients have included Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, both winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Moore building renovations

The largest ticket item announced at the breakfast is a proposed $23-million renovation of the Earl V. Moore building on North Campus. Built in 1964, the building has become rundown and is no longer able to accommodate the increased number of students, Coleman said.

“I know the faculty from Music, Theatre and Dance will agree when I say this project is overdue,” Coleman said.

If approved by the University’s Board of Regents at its Nov. 15 meeting, the University will contribute $14 million toward the project, complemented by an $8-million donation from alumni Bill and Dee Brehm. The University will also seek another $1 million from smaller donors.

Additions to the building will include a large rehearsal hall for use by the University Symphony Orchestra and the University Symphony Band, renovations of existing halls and classrooms, a new entryway and the addition of practice spaces, among other improvements, according to a University press release.

“The School of Music, Theatre and Dance is a point of pride for Michigan, with talent second to no one,” Coleman said.

According to Jerry May, the University’s vice president for development, the renovation was largely spurred by the Brehm family’s $8-million donation. The Brehms have previously contributed more than $60 million to a variety of projects, including an expansion of the Kellogg Eye Center. They’ve also funded diabetes research, the establishment of two named professorships and a scholarship program for graduates of Fordson High School in Dearborn, Mich. who attend the University.

“(Bill Brehm) has a great love of music. He records, he plays, he produces,” May said. “One day he called and said, ‘I want to do something. Put some ideas together.’ This is another in his series of philanthropies for things that he’s passionate about and he cares about.”

May said because of the complexity of the project, involving both additions and renovations, he was unable to give a definite timeframe for its completion, but estimated about two years of work once the project begins in 2014.

Earlier this year, the University’s School of Art & Design received a similar donation of $32.5 million from alumni Roe and Penny Stamps, leading to the school’s renaming as the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

Harvard professor to lead healthcare institute

Coleman also announced that Harvard University physician John Ayanian will serve as the first director of the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Ayanian, who has centered his career on improving the state of health care and advocating for equality, will lead a group of more than 400 health care and policy researchers when he assumes his position next month.

As the first IHPI director, Ayanian will appoint associate directors, establish research priorities, support existing partnerships and create new collaborations locally, nationally and globally. He will also recruit faculty within University schools and colleges and increase national visibility of the University’s institute.

The institute was launched in June, and will soon welcome researchers from the Veteran Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System, who signed a $866,574 multi-year lease for space in the IHPI last week.

Though Ayanian is currently a medical and health care policy professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, he will be splitting his time between Ann Arbor and Cambridge, Mass. during his 10-month term to oversee IHPI, which is located in the North Campus Research Complex.

Ayanian said he is looking forward to taking on the responsibility and working toward tackling health care policy issues.

“I’m very excited that the University of Michigan is committed to investing in developing the field of health care policy and services research,” Ayanian said in an interview. “I think that the goals that the University has for the institute are just right to promote high quality, safe, affordable and equitable care. My goal as the new director will be to help launch the institute in the most successful way possible to achieve those goals in the health care system.”

IHPI’s research seeks to examine the influence of healthcare policy and practice on patient health over a wide range of issues including diabetes, cancer, heart disease, mental health, children’s health and hospital care, according to Ayanian.

Ayanian noted that collaboration is an integral function for the University and the effectiveness of IHPI.

“By strengthening the quality of the research and the collaborations that people have here as well as building stronger partnerships with organizations outside the University will allow us to have the greatest impact as quickly as possible,” Ayanian said.

The diverse IHPI faculty extends beyond the University Medical School, and faculty members hail from the 11 other schools, colleges and institutes across the University’s many disciplines and partnerships.

“There’s a longstanding spirit of collaboration that we’ll be building on and that’s a very exciting prospect for me,” Ayanian said.