Earlier this month, a $150,000 donation was given to the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy by University alum James Hackett to start the Lee C. Bollinger Award, which will grant $7,500 to one exceptional second-year students each year.
Hackett, currently President and CEO of Steelcase Inc., headquartered in Grand Rapids, graduated in 1977 from LSA and played football for Michigan from 1973 to 1977.
Hackett spoke of the importance of the University’s school of public policy and said he has plans to meet with the dean to “further support her in priorities that she’s developing.”
“I’ve found in the school and my association with President Ford that there’s a lot more work that I want to do here at this particular school,” Hackett said.
“Its my wife and my hope that we can continue to give the opportunity for others to go to this fine school and that others will join us in celebrating the respective contributions of Lee (Bollinger) and President Ford to the (University),” he said. “This is going to be a very cool place at Michigan.”
As for naming the award after former University President Lee Bollinger, Hackett spoke of Bollinger’s vision in establishing the school.
“For me, that was one of Lee (Bollinger)’s hallmarks, that he really wanted the University to engage intellectually in topics as deeply and broadly as possible, which is what makes a university experience so wonderful,” Hackett said.
He said Bollinger recognized the potential of the University and sought to enhance it to “world-class thinking.”
“Lee had an instinct about the vibrancy of the University in the way that it fuels the development of public policy and it harkens back to my days at the University in the early ’70s, seeing the impact that the students had in the political mainstream in the time,” Hackett said.
Rebecca Blank, dean of the School of Public Policy, said the interest collected on the original donation will perpetuate the award indefinitely.
“We are always in need of fellowships for our students,” Blank said. “(They) don’t enter high paying jobs after they graduate.”
Blank added that because most graduates enter either public service or non-profit work, the generally lower salaries of these careers makes student debt difficult to pay off.
Thus, the amount of scholarship aid a public policy school can provide is a major factor in competing for better and brighter students, she said.
“I am delighted to get this gift,” Blank said. “We’re ranked in the top five, but we lose students sometimes because of our ability to provide financial aid. … One of my highest priorities in fundraising is to raise additional scholarship funds.”
The school has received donations designated for financial aid of up to $250,000, but $150,000 “is a very generous gift,” Blank said.
The award, which will be primarily merit-based, comes with no strings attached, and the only condition is that it help the students pay for their time at the University, which could mean anything from helping cover a grocery bill to putting a dent in the $11,884 in-state or $21,530 out-of-state tuition, Blank said.
Blank added, however, that while the school’s ability to provide financial aid could always be better, currently almost all of the 82 entering students and 79 continuing students receive some sort of financial aid package ranging from $1,000 to $15,000.
The school pays out a total of between $400,000 and $450,000 per year.