WMU News

State Farm donates $64,000 to WMU

June 12, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- State Farm Companies Foundation is contributing $64,000 to Western Michigan University, with $34,000 earmarked for support of the business program in financial planning services and $30,000 going to a series of scholarships to support minority students pursuing careers as teachers.

Of the total amount targeted for support of the business program, $15,000 is going to an annually funded professorship in financial services. Dr. Ajay Samant, professor of finance and commercial law, has been named the State Farm Professor of Financial Services for 2003-04.

"State Farm's contribution will provide Dr. Samant, who is also the chair-elect of the Department of Finance and Commercial Law, with the resource to more rapidly develop our program in financial planning services," says Dr. James W. Schmotter, dean of the Haworth College of Business. "This is a very attractive major for our students, and we are one of only a handful of universities that offer it."

An additional $6,000 is supporting three scholarships for minority students pursuing studies in the area of financial planning services, and $13,000 is going toward general program support and to continue a State Farm Insurance and Financial Services Executive-in-Residence program. Executives in residence spend two to four days each on the WMU campus engaged in workshops and round-table discussions with students.

State Farm previously funded the executive-in-residence program, financial planning scholarships and professorship with a $25,000 gift in 2001. Other elements of the gift are new this year, and the amount designated for the professorship was increased from $12,500 to $15,000.

"One of our motivations in supporting development of the financial planning services program at WMU is our excellent experience hiring Western Michigan graduates," says Mark Odland, vice president-operations at State Farm. "They have been among our top employees, and we look forward to recruiting at WMU for many years to come."

Odland, who is based in Marshall, Mich., is a member of the advisory board for the Haworth College of Business. He says that State Farm has designated Western Michigan University as a "priority school" for both recruiting and financial support.

Students of minority heritage who commit to pursuing a teaching career are benefiting from five $6,000 scholarships funded by State Farm. Scholarship recipients receive $3,000 in both their junior and senior year of study.

"State Farm has joined other leading corporations and foundations in recognizing the critical need for teachers from underrepresented populations," says Dr. Gary L. Wegenke, dean of WMU's College of Education. "We have a number of counseling and support programs in place to help minority students succeed. State Farm has provided the needed scholarship support so that at least some of these students won't have to give up their dream of becoming a teacher for financial reasons."

"We applaud Western Michigan University for its leadership in efforts to retain and graduate minority students who want to become teachers," says Odland. "We see these scholarships as ultimately benefiting the entire state, since these aspiring future teachers can have a long-term, positive impact in our elementary and secondary schools. They may someday serve as classroom role models, who inspire other young people of minority heritage to pursue a career in teaching."

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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