During his nearly 30 years in the health care and financial services industries, University alum Richard Rogel has strived to give back to his alma mater.
Rogel — who served on fundraising committees for the Campaign for Michigan between 1992 and 1997 and the Michigan Difference campaign between 2004 and 2008, in addition to donating $22 million to establish need-based scholarships for students — is one of many University alumni who continue to give back to students after establishing a successful career.
Jerry May, vice president for development, said large donations come from individuals that seek to impact academic fields they are passionate about, adding that a donor seeking to fuel an innovative research project is often motivated by the University researchers.
“The thing that really drives these big gifts are the big ideas, and the big ideas are generated by the big leaders,” May said.
May added that obtaining private financial support for the University is contingent on having strong leaders in a variety of fields in order to reassure donors that their funding will be put to good use.
“If you don’t have the leaders to bring the credibility, then you are not going to get this kind of support at the University of Michigan,” he said.
May said many relationships with larger donors sometimes takes two to three years to develop before an actual donation is made.
Judy Malcolm, senior director of executive communications, said the University Office of Development works to match donors with topics they’re passionate about by holding seminars and events around the country, that feature discussions on research projects by faculty members.
May said not everyone donates to research funds or scholarships, noting that donors like Stephen Ross — a University alum and CEO of The Related Companies, L.P., a worldwide real estate company — gave $100 million in 2004 to construct the new Business School facility.
“He gave a large portion of his money to the school itself (and now) it has a learning environment that is just vibrant,” he said. “He is a real estate developer, and he has worked with architects and learned to realize that physical facilities can have an impact on the learning that takes place inside.”
Malcolm said the old Business School building was set up for an old curriculum based on large class sizes, but with a shift to smaller class sizes, the physical space needed to reflect this change.
“This is a perfect example of a new facility that is exactly right for the way we educate students,” Malcolm said.
May said the decision to fund facilities or scholarships is ultimately a personal one, and he can’t place a value on one over the other.
May noted that Donald Graham, a University alum and founder of the Graham Sustainability Institute, is an example of a donor vested in the program’s he’s provided funding for.
“(Graham) believes that the University should play a leadership role in sustainability research and in sustainability education,” May said. “So he matched his ability to give with his affiliation with the University of Michigan and his passion for sustainability.”
May added that of the $3.2 billion raised by the Michigan Difference campaign, $500 million was allocated to facility development, more than $1 billion was raised for academic programs and research and $550 million was provided for academic scholarships.
Rogel, who funds four academic scholarships, said he chose this form of donation because he wants to help students without the means to attend the University. He said he was able to pay his tuition by working while at the University, but the cost today makes this impossible for many students.
“I think that the University was one of the most important things in my life,” he said. “I am absolutely enthralled with the idea of being able to work with such a great institution and help other people (attend).”
Rogel said he is struck by the dedication of the students he supports, noting one of his first scholarship students took a year off from college to teach high school in South Central Los Angeles because the high school didn’t have a science teacher.
“I think that you get the most bang for your buck by giving to the University,” he said.
LSA senior Danling Yu, president of the Rogel Society — an organization intended to unite students that receive the Rogel Award of Excellence in social, cultural and academic settings — said she was only able to attend the University because of the scholarships she received.
“Michigan is a great school to begin with and has a lot of opportunities but during my freshman year, I was really glad that I got scholarships like the Rogel scholarship,” Yu said.
Yu added that being a Rogel Scholar has provided her with access to a unique community of students that participate in community service and social events.
“It has been cool seeing the different talents everyone has … and it has made me really appreciate (my time at the University),” she said.