French Department Icon Helps Students in Need

Martine Darmon Meyer was a beloved professor of the French language, literature, and civilization at UWM for more than 40 years. She served for many years as chair of the Department of French, Italian, and Comparative Literature and was described by a colleague as “the soul of UWM French and our department.”

The Martine Meyer/Martha Best Scholarship, for students of the French, was established in her honor during her lifetime, but Meyer wanted to do more.

A volunteer at Milwaukee Public Schools for 25 years, Meyer had a vision for helping local students who couldn’t afford college on their own. To do this, she made plans to establish the Martine Darmon Meyer Scholarship Fund through her estate. Rather than limit her support to just students of French, she opened it up to students of any department within the College of Letters & Science who demonstrate financial need.

Since Meyer’s death in 2013, her scholarship has been awarded to multiple students, including Veronika Greco (pictured above), who spoke at the 2016 Scholarship Reception. “I am so very grateful and amazed that I received this coveted scholarship,” she wrote to Meyer’s daughter. “Your mother has invested in my future and ultimately that of my entire family. I take my education very seriously, and UWM has been a positive and encouraging experience for me. Your mother’s generosity is overwhelming.”

Social Work Student Benefits from Professor’s Legacy

Samella Jolly (pictured above) has been in the social work field for more than 12 years, helping people afflicted with HIV/AIDS get housing and providing support for children with intellectual, physical, developmental and social emotional disabilities. Eventually she wants to become a licensed clinical therapist, but to accomplish that goal, she needs an advanced degree.

She decided to pursue her master’s in social work at the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare while working as a disabilities services coordinator for Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services and raising her son, niece, and nephew on her own. Receiving the Aileen Rockjordan Scholarship has made pursuing her degree a bit less stressful. “I value education, and this financial relief enables me to continue taking care of my family and planning for my son’s future college education,” she says.

Rockjordan ’61 earned her master’s degree at UWM and was a professor in the Department of Social Welfare for 27 years until her retirement in 1992. She established a scholarship through her estate plans, and since her death in 2013, her fund has helped many graduate students in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare.

“I was always interested in other people,” said Rockjordan in 2004 when she made plans to establish the fund. The Aileen Rockjordan Scholarship supports students with academic merit, financial need, and a commitment to promoting cultural diversity in the delivery of social services.


Parent Creates Scholarship for MPS Grads

When her son came to UWM as a music student, Jane, a former computer analyst at UW-Madison, knew very little about UWM or Milwaukee. After just a few years, she was so impressed with this urban university that she began to look for ways to make an impactful gift. This year, through her estate plan, she created a scholarship to help students from Milwaukee go to school at UWM.

Jane visited her son regularly, attended many concerts, and saw firsthand the opportunities that UWM and the city provided for young people, students, and especially young musicians. She was very impressed with the music faculty at the Peck School of the Arts.

“I think Milwaukee is a wonderful city, and UWM is a great asset to it,” she says. “Yet many young people struggle to get a college education.” Jane’s scholarship fund will provide support for graduates of Milwaukee Public Schools who are majoring in music, education, or nursing.

Born and raised in a working class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, Jane understood from an early age that her family of nine had limited resources. As a teen, Jane became aware of the economic diversity of Chicago while frequently making her way downtown on the bus. She saw that the relative poverty of many seemed to be related to where they were born in the city. These images stayed with her and helped shape her ideas of giving to others.

After graduating from the University of Illinois with a master’s in physics, Jane worked as a computer scientist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland, and then at Rockefeller University in New York. Eventually she took a position in neuroscience research at UW-Madison, where she spent 30 years designing and implementing computer software used in experiments to study the brain’s relation to the process of hearing. She retired in 2014.

As an academician, Jane has a great appreciation for the value of education, and she was inspired to make a gift that would help people whose opportunities are limited. “This way, I can make a difference to those who call Milwaukee home, and hopefully give something back to a community that has given a lot to my son and other students at UWM.”


Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, One Student-Parent at a Time

Twelve years ago, the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation approached UWM about a plan to help the Milwaukee community by lifting more families out of poverty. The idea was to establish a program at UWM for low-income students who are raising young children—a demographic that is historically the least likely to graduate from college.

Out of this vision and the Pettit Foundation’s generosity, UWM’s Life Impact Program was born. The program offers student-parents a $5,000 scholarship as well as life coaching, peer mentorship, networking opportunities, family-friendly events, student-parent workshops, and access to resources and emergency funds. The program also reduces the sense of alienation and exclusion that many student-parents experience.

Natalie Reinbold has been with the program since its inception, and she’s personally witnessed the hundreds of lives that have been changed since 2005. “The program literally would not be here if it weren’t for the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation’s vision and generous support,” she says. “The program’s success led us to receive continued financial support from the Pettit Foundation.”

In total, the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation has contributed $3.7 million to the Life Impact Program. As of January 2017, the program had served a total of 195 UWM student-parents and their 273 children. The graduation rate of these students is more than 85 percent, and 100 percent either found employment within 6 to 9 months of graduation or sought advanced degrees.

Reinbold says Life Impact scholars depend far less on government benefits to provide their family with their basic household needs. “Scholars and their families experience improved socioeconomic conditions and lower poverty rates,” she adds. “In addition, UWM specifically benefits from the program by ensuring increased graduation and persistence rates among a diverse population. All these factors influence our community in a positive way.”

Margaret Lund, president of the Pettit Foundation, has praised UWM’s Life Impact Program.

“This program affects not only students but also their children and the communities in which these educated families will eventually settle,” Lund says. “We are proud to collaborate with a top research university like UWM in promoting the welfare of families and children in the Milwaukee area.”



Championing Public Health

After 10 years of working at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Langston Verdin ’02 says he has seen immense health disparities within the Milwaukee community. Many of the hospital’s patients contend with limited access to fresh food, unsafe neighborhoods, and transportation inequities. “The wide array of preventable health concerns facing Wisconsin’s most economically poor communities is simply unacceptable,” says Verdin, “and that is why I’ve come back to UWM to pursue my graduate degree.”

Verdin, who earned his bachelor’s degree in history and Africology at UWM in 2002, currently works as a population health advisor at Children’s. His plan of returning to school was made a reality when he received the Vera Zilber Public Health Scholarship.

The Zilber Family Foundation established this scholarship in 2014 in order to recruit and retain students in the areas of biostatistics, epidemiology, and public health policy and administration. “Our community needs a school that will be a catalyst for healthier communities through the education of well-prepared public health leader-practitioners,” says Susan Lloyd, president of the Zilber Family Foundation. Since 2014, more than 40 students have received the Vera Zilber Public Health Scholarship.

Now Verdin is among the students’ fulfilling the vision of the Zilber Family Foundation. “I am so grateful for this scholarship,” he says. “I truly believe that a master’s degree from the Zilber School of Public Health will give me the tools I need to better understand the challenges facing Milwaukee’s poorest communities and help me build the skills I need to improve the health outlook for children and families in our city.”

Herzfeld Foundation Gives UWM $1.5 Million for Innovation, Research

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has received a $1.5 million gift from the Herzfeld Foundation in October 2016. The university’s Innovation Campus and the UWM Research Foundation’s Catalyst Grant Program will receive $1 million from the gift, which is the foundation’s second $1 million donation to those programs. The remainder of the gift is for unrestricted support.

Located in Wauwatosa, Innovation Campus is a place where business, industry, and academic researchers collaborate to launch intellectual property. The Catalyst Grant Program provides seed funding for research and development that has the potential to impact southeastern Wisconsin’s economy. Unrestricted funds allow the university to address needs that cannot be anticipated and do not fall within specific categories.

“We are extremely pleased that the Herzfeld Foundation has chosen to partner with us to promote innovation,” Mone said. “Research is a strategic driver of UW-Milwaukee, and Innovation Campus and our catalyst grants are bringing new ideas to the marketplace. I am deeply grateful to the Herzfeld Foundation for their vision and generosity.”

The Herzfeld Foundation awards grants in the areas of arts and culture, education, arts education, and civic improvements. Funding is restricted to Wisconsin-based organizations with an emphasis on those that benefit people in the greater Milwaukee area.

“This foundation was created because Richard and Ethel Herzfeld were passionate about enhancing the quality of life in the greater Milwaukee area,” said F. William Haberman, president of the Herzfeld Foundation. “UWM has a tremendous impact on our community, and the research being done at its Innovation Campus and through its Catalyst Grant Program holds great promise for the wellbeing and economic vitality of our city.”

Innovation Campus is home to the 25,000-square-foot Innovation Accelerator building. The Accelerator brings researchers from UWM, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Concordia University Wisconsin, and other academic institutions together with industry partners and startups to encourage academic research with commercial potential.

“Support from organizations like the Herzfeld Foundation is a great vote of confidence for what we are accomplishing at Innovation Campus,” said David Gilbert, president of the UWM Foundation and executive director of Innovation Campus. “This gift will create many opportunities for our faculty and students to collaborate with other academic institutions and the business community.”

Some projects conducted at Innovation Campus are supported by the Catalyst Grant Program, which fosters projects at their earlier stages and provides gap funding to aid development of projects further along the continuum toward commercialization.

“I am deeply grateful to receive this support from the Herzfeld Foundation,” said Brian Thompson, president of the UWM Research Foundation. “This gift will advance our efforts to develop intellectual property and the commercialization of UWM technologies. I know the Herzfelds intended to lift up the city of Milwaukee and the surrounding region, and that’s exactly what we are doing. The Herzfeld Foundation’s generosity will help us focus on research areas that complement our regional capabilities, such as advanced automation, biochemistry and drug discovery, biomedical engineering, energy, entrepreneurship, health care, and water. I am excited about this gift and the future of our city.”

Scholarships Strengthen Community

Raised by a single mother, Christiana Broughton ’17 says she would not have had the opportunity to pursue an education at UWM without scholarship support. A recipient of the Sullivan-Spaights Scholarship, Christiana is one of dozens of students helped by the generosity of Isabel Bader and her husband, Alfred Bader ’80.

The Baders established this scholarship in 1999 to help minority students from Milwaukee Public Schools achieve higher education and become leaders. The scholarship honors two leaders in Milwaukee’s African-American community: the Reverend Leon Howard Sullivan, who focused on job training and placement for members of minority communities, and Ernest Spaights, former professor of information sciences at UWM, who established a model mentoring program for minority men at the university.

More than 50 students throughout the university’s schools and colleges have benefited from the scholarship, which is renewable. Like Christiana, all Sullivan-Spaights Scholars have demonstrated leadership skills in their community and have financial need.

Christiana is a nursing major who has maintained a 3.7 grade-point average while being actively engaged on campus. “During the school year, I serve as a peer mentor for our health profession’s living learning community,” she says. “In the summer, I work with our new-student orientation program. That’s my way to give back here on campus.

Christiana hopes to “pay it forward” by working as a nurse in the Milwaukee community after she graduates. “I know that these opportunities were afforded to me because of the generous donation from the Baders,” she adds. “Without their help I know it would have been a true struggle.”

Alfred Bader is a world-renowned chemist, art historian and dealer, lecturer, and philanthropist and holds an honorary doctorate from UWM. After receiving scholarships as an undergraduate student, Isabel Bader spent her career teaching English, Spanish, and history, and holds an honorary doctorate from Emmanuel College of Victoria University in Toronto.

In 2011, the Baders honored their friend, Leonard E. Parker, distinguished professor emeritus of physics, by making a lead gift for the construction of the Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex (KIRC). Parker was the director of the Center for Gravitation and Cosmology, which is housed in the KIRC and now bears his name.

Scholarships Pave Way for Success

Ashley Matter ’17 is headed for medical school thanks, in part, to the Lawrence Baldassaro Honors College Scholarship. If not for scholarship support, Ashley says she would have had to spend much more time working and much less time on extracurricular activities. Instead, she became president of UWM’s Colleges Against Cancer student organization, which plans the annual Relay for Life event, and she has volunteered as a patient advocate for victims of sexual assault at Waukesha Memorial Hospital.

“Professor Baldassaro’s scholarship allowed me to focus on my extracurricular activities and enabled me to be a strong candidate for medical school,” she says. After she graduates with her degree in biology, Ashley will go to medical school at Kansas City University.

A UWM faculty member for more than three decades and a scholar of Italian literature and Italian American history, Professor Emeritus Baldassaro chaired the Department of French, Italian and Comparative Literature for five years. He was director of the Honors College and served on the executive council of the Dante Society of America, the oldest literary society in America.

Baldassaro says he supports scholarships for honors students because he believes in UWM’s commitment to meeting the needs of its most talented and dedicated students.

“The 13 years I spent as director were the most rewarding time of my 36-year career at UWM. The students’ work ethic, dedication, and achievements were remarkable, but what most impressed me was that, in spite of all they accomplished, they were unfailingly modest,” he says. “These students, who are most likely to make significant contributions to society in the future, deserve to be supported financially.”

Baldassaro has been giving to UWM for the past 22 years, and his scholarship has helped 18 students so far. In addition to Ashley Matter, two other students also received the Baldassaro scholarship during the 2016-17 academic year: Sam Goerke (pictured left), a senior in the School of Information Studies, and Maia Stack, a senior in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare.

Former Teachers Help Launch Projects

When Barbara Michaels ’56, ’60 (pictured center) graduated from the School of Education in 1956, she simply filled out a postcard in order to receive a lifetime teaching license. “I also had to be able to play the piano and know how to swim because I had to teach music and physical education, too,” she recalls. “Today, the list of requirements is much lengthier and includes examinations and submission of a video showing the student actually teaching.”

Realizing that today’s education students face more challenges than ever before, Michaels joined the Women’s Giving Circle, a group that provides funding for faculty-led projects and research. By banding together, alumni and former teachers can pool their money and make a gift of greater impact.

Since 2006, the group has funded several projects, including a teacher performance assessment training called edTPA coordinated by Angel Hessel in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. “The Women’s Giving Circle made it possible for students and faculty to learn about, pilot, and fully implement the edTPA,” she says. “Their generous support has had a powerful impact on hundreds of teacher candidates’ readiness to begin their teaching careers.”

A Commitment to Honors Students

“I would not have made it through my undergraduate years at UWM without the help of scholarships,” says AJ KleinOsowski ’99, an alumna of the College of Engineering & Applied Science and the Honors College. Now a research scientist and design engineer with The Boeing Company, AJ and her husband, Kevin KleinOsowski ’97, have established a scholarship for honors College students at UWM.

“As soon as I paid off my student loans, I took the equivalent monthly payments and routed those funds into scholarships for future students,” she explains. “As my career progressed and my income increased, I elevated those funds to a named undergraduate scholarship, and each year, I leveraged matching funds from my employer to increase the impact of my giving. I am very proud to support the KleinOsowski Honors College Scholarship at UWM. I cherish the opportunity to help these exemplary students in launching their academic and professional careers.”