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Updated 11:00 AM June 30, 2008




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Former librarian donates $5.2 million for LSA fellowships

Mildred Dorothy Sommer kept her U-M diploma with her until the day she died. From her home in Cleveland Heights to the nursing home where she passed away last year at the age of 100, her diploma occupied a special place in her life.
(Photo courtesy LSA)

Those who knew her say Sommer, who in 1928 graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts from LSA, remembered her years at U-M with special fondness. Among the belongings relatives found after her death were her diploma, which she had kept near her dresser at the nursing home, an invitation to her June 18 graduation ceremony on Ferry Field and pictures of Sommer in her cap and gown.

To honor her alma mater and ensure educational opportunities for future generations, Sommer donated $5.2 million to be used for LSA graduate student fellowships.

"She thought of U-M as an excellent place of learning," says her cousin, Dennis Rodgers. "While at Michigan, she excelled in academics and had a good social life. She obviously really liked her days at U-M."

LSA Dean Terrence McDonald says Sommer's gift is a wonderful legacy.

"The generosity of Mildred Sommer will live on for decades, providing educational opportunities for future generations," he says. "We are also pleased that she carried such fond memories of U-M to the end of her lifetime."

After her graduation from U-M Sommer returned to her home in Cleveland Heights, and earned a Bachelor of Science in library science from Western Reserve University in 1936. She worked as a librarian at the university for more than 30 years until she retired, Rodgers says.

Sommer, an only child, lived in the family home in Cleveland Heights with her parents Al, a successful businessman, and Zoe, a homemaker. Sommer and her mother traveled extensively between 1930 and the 1950s and enjoyed entertaining in their home — especially tea parties.

"They were a remarkable family," Rodgers says. "Mid was as smart as a tack and had a dry wit that didn't stop. She was definitely a modern woman."

Sommer also was a shrewd investor who studied the stock market closely and invested her inheritance wisely, Rodgers says. She lived simply and spent little on herself.

James Bright, Sommer's attorney, says she placed a high value on her U-M education and decided before her death to leave the majority of her estate to the University.

"She was very appreciative of the education she received," he says.

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