The Michigan Difference comes to life at kickoff
When ABC News anchor Carole Simpson graduated from U-M, a successful career in the news business seemed destined to remain only a dream.
She was the only person of color to major in journalism at Michigan in 1962. When seeking an internship, Simpson was told she had three strikes against her: She was "Negro, a woman and had no experience," she said. Defeated by the rejection, Simpson returned to work at the Chicago Public Library. But she was not alone in her disappointment.
"No one was more frustrated than Professor Maurer," Simpson said of journalism professor and department chair Wesley Maurer, who didn't give up and eventually called her in Chicago to say he had lined up an internship at Tuskegee Institute where, upon accepting the position, she would have to work on a master's degree.
"I thank Michigan for a professor who made a difference in my life," Simpson said May 14 as she opened the campaign kickoff event celebrating The Michigan Difference.
Simpson also expressed appreciation for the acting experience that helped her learn how to use the now-famous voice. And she credited U-M for introducing her to an engineering student who has been her husband for 37 years.
"I don't have millions of dollars," Simpson said about her participation in the campaign. "I have my voice. I can be a role model. I bequeath me to you."
Like Simpson, other participants were able to detail the difference Michigan has made in their lives and the lives of others at more than 90 events throughout the three-day campaign celebration May 13-15.
The event in Rackham Auditorium highlighted the University's impact on individuals and the world through skits that poked fun at student life, heartfelt testimonials from former students and U-M Health System patients, and words of recognition for alumni and friends who already have given to the campaign.
Another example of The Michigan Difference was experienced by the family of Katherine Huber, who joined Simpson on stage to share their emotional story about fighting an aggressive disease. As an infant, Katherine was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a malignant cancer that attacks the soft tissue and muscles in children.
The family from Flushing, near Flint, spent nearly a year at Mott Children's Hospital while Katherine underwent treatments that would save her life.
"When we arrived there in the middle of the night, we felt at home," her mother Patty said as she and husband David expressed appreciation for the care they received at the hospital.
Videotape was used throughout the event to deliver remarks from several alumni and friends for whom Michigan has made a difference. Among the video participants were former president Gerald R. Ford and recent graduate Paul Albertus, who is studying at York University through a fellowship that encourages collaboration between the humanities and engineering. The fellowship was funded by a donation from College of Engineering faculty member Roger Jones.
The Michigan Difference also was portrayed through music from recent graduate and violinist/fiddler Jeremy Kittel, a recipient of the School of Music's (SoM) highest honor, the Stanley Medal; and from Elena Urioste, violinist and national winner of the Sphinx Competition, which promotes Black and Latino representation in orchestras by providing students of stringed instruments with competitive opportunities. SoM alumnus Aaron Dworkin started the program at U-M and since has moved it to Detroit.
Students from the Department of Theatre and Drama entertained the audience with humorous snapshots of student and campus life, including a gag"What is a provost?"used as a segue to introduce Provost Paul N. Courant.
"Knowing that your interest is piqued, there are a couple of ways to explain just what a provost is," he quipped. "One definition is that a provost is someone who is in charge, often of a public service. A second definition tells us a provost is someone who oversees a prison.
"Actually, I have the best job on campus, and it's these students who make it so," he said. "I want to know that in 40 years, the students we just saw will still reach back to something they did at Michigan as they go about living full, productive lives."
Courant highlighted a number of recent gifts to the campus that help support students and faculty, as did other speakers who followed. President Mary Sue Coleman wrapped up the formal comments.
"We are a university with a remarkable history of forward thinking, and it is our responsibility to provide greater opportunities to the students and faculty who come after us," Coleman said.
"More than anything, we are a university that challenges our students. In turn, our students and alumni challenge us. We prepare these future leaders, and then we watch with pride and amazement as they go out and turn the world on its head."