Fall 2021 Special Edition
Close-up view of the eyes of a fabric art rendering of a face.
Close-up view of the eyes of a fabric art rendering of a face.


Leaders & Best shares stories that celebrate Michigan’s philanthropic spirit and impact on our world.

Dr. Cunningham seated.

Science as the solution
A conversation with Dr. Rebecca Cunningham about firearm injury prevention


Dr. Rebecca Cunningham (MedRes ’99), the University of Michigan’s vice president for research, is one of the leaders and best when it comes to firearm injury prevention research. Before Cunningham came to U-M, she worked for more than two decades as an emergency room physician, where she often found herself face to face with victims of gun violence. These experiences inspired her to pursue research around firearm injury prevention in an effort to make guns safer and reduce firearm-related injury and death. Recently, Leaders & Best had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Cunningham about the new Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and how donors are helping to propel important research around gun violence.

President Schlissel spinning the Cube sculpture.

Message from President Schlissel


With the fall semester underway, President Schlissel offers some thoughts with the Leaders & Best community. He shares the excitement of resuming traditional University of Michigan activities, his gratitude for the constant care and concern of our donors during the uncertainties of the pandemic, and his optimism about the future.

“Thank you for your considerable support and efforts, over the last year and a half and always. Your generosity has made the amazing work of our faculty, staff and students possible—and made our fall semester one full of promise and anticipation of new discoveries.”

Student Impact Stories

Ishita Shukla, Davian Bennett,and Easton Farrell

Ishita Shukla (LSA Class of 2023) (left), Davian Bennett (CASL Class of 2024), Easton Farrell (BSEBE ’21)

Student Impact Stories

Supporting our students is at the heart of everything we do, and the tremendous generosity of our donors allows us to make a high-quality, Michigan education more accessible. Meet three remarkable students whose scholarships are providing amazing opportunities!

Support to serve


Ishita Shukla (LSA Class of 2023) always had her sights set on becoming a Wolverine. U-M topped her list when Ishita was applying to colleges, and she’ll never forget receiving her acceptance letter. But that was just the beginning of the good news. It wasn’t long before Ishita received word that she had been selected as a recipient of the Vieta Voght Woodlock Alumnae Scholarship to help her pursue her education at Michigan.

Family ties


University of Michigan-Dearborn sophomore Davian Bennett (CASL Class of 2024) always knew college was in his future. While studying at Salem High School, he pursued dual enrollment at UM-Dearborn to get a jumpstart on his college education. But when the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation, suddenly Davian was worried his college dreams were in jeopardy. Donor support put Davian’s education back on track.

Engineering a better future


Easton Farrell (BSEBE ’21) grew up in a tight-knit family in Grayling, Michigan. When it came time to apply to colleges, he was attracted to U-M’s world class engineering program, with the goal of pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering. But he knew without scholarship support, he would struggle immensely with the financial burden. The Stamps Scholarship helped Easton pursue his dreams.

Robert Sellers sitting

Change Agent
What it Meant to Me: Robert Sellers


From All-American football player at Howard University to graduate student activist at the University of Michigan to the university’s inaugural chief diversity officer, Robert Sellers (PhD ’90) has accepted the daunting challenges surrounding him and risen to them. His extraordinary humility belies his tremendous accomplishments, which include the creation and implementation of U-M’s first strategic plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As he comes to the end of his tenure in the Provost’s Office and returns to teaching, he shares his U-M experience and gives his views on how DEI principles are vital to the fabric of everything the university does—including development.

ISR Next Gen student portraits

ISR’s Next Generation Initiative


At U-M’s Institute for Social Research (ISR), donor support has spurred graduate student research across campus, funding studies in social science, public policy, race and ethnic politics, and more. The Next Generation Initiative at ISR provides financial support to promising scholars at an early stage in their careers. Donors have been crucial to the development of this program and have a huge impact on students’ ability to conduct research and publish scholarly articles, according to David Lam, director of the Institute for Social Research. Meet four students whose research is made possible by generous donors.

Jane Plasman with illustration of U-M landmarks.

Committed to support


Although Jane Plasman’s (BA ’73) extensive corporate career took her from New York to Australia to Switzerland, U-M has always been near to her heart and supporting students has been an important cause. The loyal annual giving donor recently made noteworthy gifts to the LEAD Scholars program, the Armenian Studies Program, and the School of Dentistry. Her philanthropy reflects her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion support, an extension of her career in corporate training and human resources, and honors her father and husband. To Jane, giving is about commitment.

Gifts in the news

The Leinweber Foundation Board: Ashley Leinweber, Larry Leinweber, Claudia Babiarz, David Leinweber, and Jessica Leinweber.The Leinweber Foundation gives $25 million toward the new Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building, bringing the two programs together on North Campus and strengthening their collaboration to create breakthrough technologies, conduct research, and facilitate innovative teaching opportunities.

Dan and Sheryl TishmanDan and Sheryl Tishman have established the Tishman Center for Social Justice and the Environment at the School for Environment and Sustainability with an $11 million gift. The gift will enable SEAS and the university to expand their environmental justice program and integrate environmental justice into solutions for the planet.

Judy and Fred WilponFred and Judy Wilpon have endowed the Kessler Scholars Program at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts with a $40 million gift. The program is a proven approach to supporting first-generation, limited-income students’ success, providing financial, academic, social, and career support.

We are Michigan

Fabric art piece depicting a face made up of many colors and patterns with the Case Circle of Excellence Grand Gold award winner seal.

To view the CASE Circle of Excellence Grand Gold Award winning cover entry, click here

Adam Beeman crafting the fabric art cover piece

About the cover

U-M alumnus and Office of University Development graphic designer Adam Beeman (BA ’14) created a piece of textile art to represent the U-M community. Drawing inspiration from fiber artist Bisa Butler, different fabrics were layered and stitched together to form the final piece.

“While creating, one question remained at the forefront: What makes up the fabric of who we are?” Beeman said. “The answer can be found in these stories of hope, of perseverance, and of responding to challenges as Michigan would. Our threads are intertwined and continue to evolve each day.”

Leaders & Best

A publication by the University of Michigan for valued members of the U-M community.

Vice President for Development

Tom Baird

Senior Executive Director, Marketing & Communications

Heather Newman

Senior Director, Executive & Internal Communications

Pam Stout

Director of Creative Services

Sarah LaTarte

Director of Marketing

Meagan Schonfeld

Director of Digital Marketing

Ila Coltas

Associate Director of Communications

Ann Marie Aliotta

Project Manager

Jessica Blanchard


Dyanna Bateman, Adam Beeman, Nate Bynum, Soo Choi, Graciela Demerath, Kara Fields

Digital Team

Frank Hillis, Becky Reames, Nancy Waters


Eric Gallippo, Melina Glusac, Madeline Swanson

University of Michigan Board of Regents

Jordan B. Acker, Huntington Woods
Michael J. Behm, Grand Blanc
Mark J. Bernstein, Ann Arbor
Paul W. Brown, Ann Arbor
Sarah Hubbard, Okemos
Denise Ilitch, Bingham Farms
Ron Weiser, Ann Arbor
Katherine E. White, Ann Arbor
Mark S. Schlissel, ex officio
Have comments about Leaders & Best?
You have received this copy of Leaders & Best because you are a valued member of the U-M community. Whether you are a volunteer, friend, or donor, your feedback on this publication and ideas for future issues help us effectively communicate the impact of philanthropy at Michigan. Send your email to leadersandbest@umich.edu, or call 734-647-6000.

Want more details on how to make a gift to Michigan?

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877-647-9090 | umgiftsec@umich.edu

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