Students fencing in a gymnasium

Leaders Invest in
Student-Athletes

Donors provide record-setting support for the leaders and best

At the launch of the Victors for Michigan campaign, Michigan Athletics set out to raise $55 million in new scholarship aid. Donors gave nearly double that goal in an overwhelming show of support, contributing more than $100 million to scholarships for student-athletes. The campaign saw the creation of 193 new endowed athletics scholarships. That represents an 87 percent increase in endowed funds. Thanks to endowed scholarships, a permanent stream of revenue now supports student-athletes across 29 sports.

Robbie Mertz, two time captain of the men’s soccer team and scholarship recipient, kicks a soccer ball.
Robbie Mertz, scholarship recipient and two-time captain of the men’s soccer team.

Of the 193 newly formed endowments, nine came from one family. Noel Tichy and Patti Stacey (AB ’78, MBA ’87) have been longtime U-M supporters. Noel serves as a professor of management & organizations at the Ross School of Business; Patti is a two-time U-M alumna. Their gifts were a show of gratitude for student-athletes who represent U-M at the highest levels.

“Student-athletes at Michigan are a very special group,” Patti said. “They excel in their sports and in academic endeavors as well. Many of these fine young men and women incur significant financial debt while contributing so much to our university. They are future leaders in society and so deserving of our support.”

Robbie Mertz (Ross Class of 2019), a men’s soccer student-athlete and endowed scholarship recipient, shared his thanks for the donor support that’s made his U-M experience possible. “I have thrown my full self into my Michigan education,” he said. “I don’t intend to waste the opportunity that you are granting me, so I will continue to work my hardest to make the most of my time here.” Mertz is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the Ross School of Business. He is a two-time captain of the men’s soccer team, a two-time All-Big Ten selection, and an All-Big Ten Academic selection.

Donor support made it possible for numerous U-M teams and student-athletes to excel throughout the campaign. Don and Pat Roof offered invaluable support for Head Coach Carol Hutchins’s softball team. “Our general approach is if Hutch needs something to make the program better, let’s get it!” they said. A portion of the couple’s support was awarded to Sierra Romero (BGS ’17) through the Roof Family Softball Endowed Scholarship Fund. At Michigan, Romero became a four-time All-American. She was the first NCAA softball player to record 300 runs, 300 hits, and 300 RBIs in her career, and she holds the NCAA record for career runs (300) and grand slams (11). Romero was the 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and a recipient of the Honda Sport Award.

At graduation, she told Leaders & Best that the Roofs’ support was crucial to her abundant success. “Don and Pat Roof have been like family to me these past four years,” she said. “They supported me throughout my career at Michigan and they’ve always been those smiling faces I love to see in the stands when my family couldn’t be there. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had a lot of the opportunities I’ve been lucky to have.”

Sierra Romero, 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and scholarship recipient, swings at a pitch.
Sierra Romero, scholarship recipient and the 2016 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
Men's Ice Hockey Team defeats Waterloo in exhibition play.
Red Berenson led the men’s hockey program for 33 seasons. Now, he’s campaigning for the program’s endowment.

Few people could understand the importance of scholarship support better than Red Berenson (BBA ’62, MBA ’66). Berenson served as head coach of the men’s hockey team for 33 years. He currently serves as special advisor to Warde Manuel (BGS ’90, MSW ’93, MBA ’05), the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics. Throughout the Victors for Michigan campaign, Berenson advocated for the endowment of the entire men’s hockey program. The $20 million fundraising endeavor will provide opportunities for student-athletes to excel in the classroom, on the ice, and in their communities. Beyond ensuring the sustainability of the ice hockey program, the initiative will help alleviate financial pressure for other sports.

That kind of support translates to a world-class operation, where talented athletes become gifted scholars. “I’ve had an assortment of kids from different backgrounds and different educations, and the bottom line continues to be the same,” Berenson says. “For example, we had a kid here from Western Canada. A valedictorian of his graduating high school class, a private school. A top student. He got here and after about a month, he came in and said, ‘Coach, this is really tough. Everybody here is really smart.’ I remember saying, ‘Good. That’s the way it was when I was here, that’s the way it should be, and that’s what’s going to make you a better student.’”

Wanting to ensure continued success for the program and its student-athletes came naturally for Berenson. “It was easy for me because I can see the results,” he says. “What are the results? The results are these kids playing, graduating, moving on, and being good citizens. We’ve had kids go through the program that are neurosurgeons, all kinds of doctors and lawyers, and successful people. Great citizens and great people.”

For Berenson, donors investing in the programs they love—and supporting the student-athletes who carry on U-M’s long-standing traditions—is par for the course. “It’s not a sensational thing,” he says. “It’s a part of Michigan that people are trying to do the right thing.”

Block M logo

More Impact Stories about Athletics & Student-Athletes
Aerial view of Michigan Stadium

Ross’ Team One Delivers

U-M Athletics' "Team One" comes together to reimagine South Campus
Published 3.18.2019
Empty gymnasium

Sound Body, Sound Mind

Donors provide mental health support for student-athletes
Published 3.18.2019
Megaphone and poms on the football field

A Coach By Any Other Name

Donors offer new scholarship opportunities for student-athletes and new titles for their coaches
Published 3.18.2019