Information dean, wife give $2.5 million for endowed professorship

By Christy Song, Daily Staff Reporter
and Will Greenberg, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 17, 2013

In an announcement early Thursday, School of Information dean Jeffrey MacKie-Mason and his wife Janet Netz committed to donating $2.5 million for an endowed professorship — one of the largest amounts a dean at the University has ever donated to his or her own school or college.

The donation will create the Jeffrey MacKie-Mason Professor of Information, which will be a tenured faculty position in that school.

MacKie-Mason and Netz are both University alumni. MacKie-Mason said in an interview Thursday that he and his wife feel a strong sense of compassion toward the values of the School of Information, which serves 441 undergraduate and graduate students. The professorship is included in the couple’s estate plan.

“My wife and I both believe deeply in the value of public universities,” MacKie-Mason said. “We just couldn’t be more excited about (the University’s) future, but it needs the support of people who believe in it.”

This contribution is the latest in a series of high-profile donations meant to kick-start the University’s upcoming fundraising campaign, Victors for Michigan, which is set to launch Nov. 8.

In September, University alum Stephen Ross, namesake of the Ross School of Business, donated $200 million for further improvements to the athletic campus and the Business School. At her annual leadership breakfast in early October, University President Mary Sue Coleman announced that she and her husband, political scientist Kenneth Coleman, would be donating $1 million toward study-abroad initiatives.

MacKie-Mason said the surge in donations comes at an important time, as state and federal funding for the University has been insufficient in recent years. In a Thursday press release, MacKie-Mason said his contribution is a great way to repay the opportunities provided to him by the University.

“Faculty and staff across the University have been given tremendous opportunities at the University of Michigan to pursue our research and enjoy rewarding careers.” MacKie-Mason said. “It’s only appropriate that we take the opportunity to give back.”

Heather Newman, a spokeswoman for the School of Information, said the donation was another example of MacKie-Mason’s excellent leadership of the school.

“Jeff has been an inspirational leader for us,” Newman said. “This is a case where he is taking the lead and really showing the rest of us that he believes in the school and that he is hoping that others will step up the same way.”

Mackie-Mason is the Arthur W. Burks Collegiate Professor of Information and Computer Science. He was also one of the founders of the re-chartered School of Information in 1996. He also holds appointments as a professor of both economics and public policy.

Netz said in the release that she is happy to support the coming generations of faculty who will research the many ways that the intersection of information and technology can have a positive impact on the future of society.

“We both appreciate the real-world impact that academic research can have,” Netz said. “We’re happy to have the opportunity to support future generations of faculty working to identify the many ways in which the use of information can improve lives everywhere.”

Martha Pollack, University provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said in the release that the generous pledge will help ensure the establishment of innovative faculty in the future.