Alumni in the news

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WSU endowment scholarship community bolstered by alum

Out of her passion and devotion to high school and college students, Detroit philanthropist Carolyn Patrick-Wanzo is working to protect the future of social work and music through the creation of several endowment scholarships at Wayne State University with her late husband. Patrick-Wanzo, 76, became interested in the world of endowment scholarships when she and her husband, Mel Wanzo, a trombone player best known for playing in the Count Basie Orchestra decided to give back to the community. “He would say, ‘You can give your life to the music and in 10 years nobody would know you existed,’” she said of her jazz musician husband who played the trombone in the big band. “We would talk about, ‘Let’s do something sustainable,’ when we retired.” That sustainability came in the form of endowment scholarships in the music department at WSU – the first one in 2003.  
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St. Clair Shores native who helped develop technology for COVID-19 vaccine honored

As a child in St. Clair Shores, Jason McLellan, Ph.D., knew he wanted to help people. McLellan said he had always thought he’d be a doctor because he wanted to help people. At Wayne State University, he excelled at chemistry and organic chemistry, which aren’t subjects many gravitate toward, he said. “The professors took notice and asked me to work in their lab performing research in organic chemistry,” he said. “I loved it, working in the lab.” He enjoyed it so much that, after publishing his first paper in organic chemistry, he switched his major from pre-med. Taking a graduate-level biochemistry class, he realized that subject fascinated him, as well. In 2003, McLellan graduated from Wayne State University and headed to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for graduate school, where he joined a structural biology laboratory that determines three-dimensional structures of proteins and other biological molecules. It was that path that eventually led him to have an impact on the COVID-19 vaccines now being administered around the world. “I was trained in a technique called X-ray crystallography,” he said. He likened it to growing rock candy, but with crystalized proteins instead. Doing so enabled him and the other researchers to be able to three-dimensional print a protein to see what it looks like and learn how it functions. The design McLellan helped to develop was used in the vaccines created by Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax. He said they also worked with Eli Lilly to create the antibody treatment to treat COVID-19. His mother, Karen McLellan, said, “He always wanted to be a pediatrician, for as long as I can remember. It changed when he went to Wayne State. Some of the professors took him under his wing, got him into his labs there. That started him on his trajectory.”
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Brighton mother, daughter share experiences caring for COVID-19 patients in ICU, hospice

When Michigan went into coronavirus lockdown in March 2020, Madison and Darlene Wiljanen went to work. Madison, 23, was working as a nursing assistant at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Her mother, Darlene, is a hospice nurse. "It was absolutely insane... people would transition so quickly," Madison said. "They would come in, I’d talk to them; they wouldn’t be on a ventilator yet. They would be on high-flow oxygen being monitored very closely. The next day I would come back and they would be ventilated, so nonverbal, sedated. Then two days later, they would be gone." Madison spent three weeks working with patients in the ICU who had COVID-19. It was a drastic change from the cardiac telemetry floor she worked on for months previously. She said "there was no light at the end of the tunnel" when she was working on that unit. This year Madison participated in a vaccine initiative in Detroit through the Detroit Public Health Department. Together with a group of doctors and nurses, Madison and several of her classmates in Wayne State's nursing program visited group homes in Detroit. Many of those living in the group homes had special needs, Madison said. "It’s a matter of life or death for these people," she said. "For me it was, yeah, I want the vaccine so I can have things go back to normal, but these people need it to keep them out of the hospital."
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17 teachers at Detroit school: Instead of Teacher Appreciation gifts, help us buy supplies

The Elliottorian Business and Professional Women's Club is the first club of Black business women in Detroit and Michigan and was founded in 1928. Throughout its history, awarding scholarships has been a staple of the organization’s public-service initiatives, with many scholarships awarded to students that have attended and graduated from Wayne State University. The organization’s connection to Wayne State includes former New Detroit President and CEO Shirley Coleman Stancato, who received a scholarship to Wayne State University from the Elliottorians after graduating from Cass Tech. Today, Stancato is a member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.
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Wayne State plans 2022 celebration for grads who missed in-person commencement ceremony

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson knows now isn't the time to have an in-person graduation, but he hasn't stopped thinking about what it could look like when the Detroit university can once again offer one. Increasingly, his thoughts have gone back a couple of decades to a 1995 ceremony he visited in post-apartheid South Africa. "It's one of those graduations I'll never forget," Wilson recently told the Free Press. He's now tasked the Wayne State staff to come up with some sort of grand celebration for the graduates who, because of COVID-19, didn't get an in-person ceremony in the spring of 2020 and December 2020 and won't get one this spring either. While no official date has been set, the school is planning on something in April 2022. School officials hope to attract a big name speaker and are working to figure out other details. The school is still planning a virtual ceremony this spring for the class of 2021, just like it did for other classes affected by COVID-19. "I have no idea what the level of interest will be, but we wanted to offer something special," Wilson said. The university didn't want to tack the ceremony on to ceremonies for 2021-2022 school year graduates. "We want something separate from next May," Wilson said. "We don't want to take away from special days for anyone. They each deserve their own day." The 1995 University of Natal ceremony Wilson attended in South Africa was billed as a reconciliation ceremony for all the Black students who had graduated but hadn't had a ceremony, because of the apartheid of the time in South Africa. "All of these students from the past four or five decades were invited," Wilson said. Various dignitaries gave speeches, including some of the most powerful speeches Wilson has ever heard. Wayne State officials believe about 10,000 graduates will have missed an in-person commencement ceremony because of the pandemic.
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4 MSNBC contributors are cable-news rock stars and, now, '#SistersInLaw' podcast hosts

Before diving into weighty topics like voter-suppression laws and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the four hosts of the "#SistersInLaw" podcast are sharing some good news about COVID-19 vaccines. "My parents both are going to get their second doses next week,” says Kimberly Atkins, who was born in Detroit and grew up in Oak Park. "Some of my siblings have gotten doses. … Having the people that I love get vaccinated has been wonderful news for me.” Joyce Vance, Jill Wine-Banks and Barb McQuade have encouraging vaccine updates, too. The "#SistersInLaw" podcast debuted Jan. 29, led by three former U.S. attorneys —McQuade, Vance and Wine-Banks — and Atkins, a former lawyer and current journalist. She is a senior opinion writer at the Boston Globe. Atkins went to Wayne State University as an undergraduate and Boston University for law school. She also has a graduate degree in journalism from New York's Columbia University. “College was essentially me trying to occupy myself for four years until I could get to law school, which was what I really wanted to do," she says. But she also "really loved" writing for Wayne State's South End student newspaper. In law school and as a young practicing attorney, she missed journalism. That led to her decision to switch careers. Atkins describes the communication style of the hosts of "#SistersInLaw" with a hint of laughter. "I notice how we give each other a chance to speak. There’s not a lot of showboating. In fact, I think it’s the opposite," she says. But there is more to it than the tendency of women to interrupt less than men during conversations. Says Atkins, "We’re four people who really respect each other's views, respect each other’s expertise and like each other. We also very much care about the topics that we're talking about. I think that is the essential part of it, more than the gender.”
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Beaumont Health exec returns to WDET as general manager

The estate of prominent Judge Damon J. Keith, who was the grandson of slaves and a figure in the civil rights movement, made a $100,000 bequest to a scholarship fund in his name, West Virginia State University announced Wednesday. Keith, who was sued by President Richard Nixon over a ruling against warrantless wiretaps, died in April in Detroit at 96. He spent more than 50 years on the federal bench. Before his death, he still heard cases about four times a year at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. He was a 1943 graduate of what was then West Virginia State College and went on to graduate from Howard University Law School in 1949 and Wayne State University Law School in 1956.
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Estate of Prominent Federal Judge Leaves $100,000 to School

The estate of prominent Judge Damon J. Keith, who was the grandson of slaves and a figure in the civil rights movement, made a $100,000 bequest to a scholarship fund in his name, West Virginia State University announced Wednesday. Keith, who was sued by President Richard Nixon over a ruling against warrantless wiretaps, died in April in Detroit at 96. He spent more than 50 years on the federal bench. Before his death, he still heard cases about four times a year at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. He was a 1943 graduate of what was then West Virginia State College and went on to graduate from Howard University Law School in 1949 and Wayne State University Law School in 1956.
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WSU's Susan Burns discusses giving styles by generation

A significant transfer of wealth is under way locally and nationally, so it's no surprise nonprofit fundraisers are putting a concerted focus on connecting with people from the baby boomer generation. But it's also important to engage with Gen X and the massive millennial generation coming into its own, said Susan Burns, vice president of development and alumni affairs for Wayne State University and president of the Wayne State University Foundation. Burns, who has a long resume raising money not only for higher education but also health care and the arts, talked with Crain's Senior Reporter Sherri Welch about how she and her team at WSU are engaging with donors and volunteers from the various age groups, generational donor personalities and the need to connect with potential donors from every generation.
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Wayne State University president Road Warrior bike tour stops in Ludington

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson will be visiting Ludington during his third annual Road Warrior bicycle tour that includes stops at four different cities in five days. Seven riders will be participating in the entire tour, including Wilson. Others will do segments, like one day, Wilson said. “This year we wanted to focus on and visit with alumni, donors and friends of the university,” said Wilson. Rob MacGregor, senior director of philanthropy at Wayne State Law School, said his daughter is riding a 100-mile segment. (Full access to article requires subscription)