The Western Michigan University Foundation is the recipient of the largest gift for a public institution of higher education in U.S. history.
The foundation received the Empowering Futures Gift of $550 million from alumni, who chose not to be named, to support Western Michigan University and the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed).
“We call it the Empowering Futures Gift because at its core is our donors’ belief that inclusive education empowers people and communities to create a bright future for all,” WMU President Edward Montgomery said.
“That is why a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is at the center of our donors’ wishes, and their gift echoes the university’s purpose: ‘So that all may learn.’ Like Western, our donors are committed to a future that truly provides opportunity for everyone to advance. In order to empower our future, we must break down the barriers created by historic inequities. This gift is an important step in leveling the playing field and putting quality education in reach for students from historically underrepresented populations. It will empower a new generation of students, doctors and athletes from every corner of our community so they can reach the full measure of their potential.”
The donors have committed $200 million for WMU, $300 million for WMed and $50 million for the athletic department. The gift will fund scholarships, medical education and research, support faculty expertise, increase athletic competitiveness and make possible numerous student-centered initiatives.
“This is a striking vote of confidence in the direction of Western, an expression of excitement for our medical school’s next decade, a major commitment to our athletics program and belief in the promise of our community,” said Montgomery, who serves as chair of the WMed board of directors.
“Not only is the $550 million in aggregate a staggering sum, it’s the biggest sum ever given for a public institution in U.S. history. But for WMU, each of the component gifts is the largest on record ever received by probably a factor of three. The size and impact of this gift will generate opportunities not just for this year, not just for next year but will catalyze opportunities that will change the condition and transform lives for generations to come.”
Western Michigan University will use its $200 million gift to expand its ability to provide financial assistance with tuition, room and board, and degree-completion support. The gift will allow the university to provide paid experiential learning for students who rely on jobs to fund their education, as well as new support staff to guide students in pursuit of their career.
Additionally, the university will have the ability to provide new professional and technical support to improve mental health and help students develop healthy lifestyles, hire a new diverse faculty and advance interdisciplinary education and research.
The $300 million gift that is donated to Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine will allow for scholarships that will reduce financial barriers for students and recruiting classes.
The gift also will expand the portion of students who receive full scholarships, eventually reaching 50%, foster innovation, collaboration and discovery in basic science, clinical science and community-based research and offer new programming and services to support a diverse and inclusive medical school community.
“Transformational gifts can change the trajectory of an institution exponentially,” said Dr. Paula M. Termuhlen, who recently joined WMed as its new dean. “A gift like this provides the resources to make a significant impact on some of the most challenging health problems. But beyond that, it positions us to not just be peers but to become a leader among medical schools in the country, particularly in the areas this gift has been designed to serve.”
The athletic department’s $50 million gift will support student-athletes’ academic performance and well-being, and expand its diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
The department will be able to enhance its recruiting and competitiveness in a championship environment and create opportunities to strengthen pipelines through broad community engagement that connects youth with WMU
“Intercollegiate athletics makes college possible and enriches the university experience for hundreds of students each year,” said Kathy Beauregard, WMU athletic director. “At Western, they have built pride and community both within the university and in the greater Kalamazoo area. The Empowering Futures Gift will help bolster our efforts to support student-athletes who come to Western from all over the world to excel in their chosen sport and perform well in the classroom.”