Eugene Driker was a pillar in the Jewish community, a prominent attorney, and a tireless supporter of the city of Detroit and Wayne State University.
In recognition of his profound contributions, President M. Roy Wilson and the Wayne State Board of Governors have created the Eugene Driker Award for Distinguished Service. The award’s first recipient is Driker, who received the honor posthumously at the Dec. 2 Board of Governors meeting, with his friends and family in attendance.
A two-time Wayne State alumnus, former member of the Board of Governors, chair of the Wayne State University Foundation Board, generous donor and tireless ambassador for the university, Driker passed away in September. But the enormous impact of his contributions to Detroit and Wayne State will be felt for years to come.
Driker’s history with Wayne State began with a bachelor’s in mathematics in 1959, followed by a law degree in 1961. As an alumnus, he continued to serve, starting with the Law School, where he was chairman of the Board of Visitors, the school’s first fundraising chair, and a member of the Carl Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy. He was also instrumental in raising funds for an addition to the Law School in 1998.
He served 12 years on the Board of Governors, having first been appointed by Gov. John Engler in 2002. He was also a longtime financial supporter of Wayne State, giving consecutively for more than five decades and establishing numerous endowed funds that encouraged and inspired students.
Driker was a founding partner in Barris, Sott, Dean & Driker, P.L.L.C. in downtown Detroit in 1968, where it remains today. He was passionate about Detroit and instrumental on the mediation team that resolved the city’s bankruptcy in 2013.
His wife, Elaine, and his son Stephen Driker along with his wife, Jennifer, accepted the award.
“My only wish is that he was here to accept this himself,” Elaine Driker said. “Everyone knows how much he loved this university. He called it the portal to the American dream. ... I believe that's why he worked so tirelessly on behalf of the university. Hearing everyone speak about all of his contributions to the university and to the city, I want everyone to know that he was also a remarkable husband, an incredible father and a devoted grandfather.”
Driker’s daughter Elissa Driker couldn’t be at the ceremony but sent a note that Elaine Driker read to everyone in attendance.
“That is so lovely and meaningful,” Elissa Driker wrote. “And exactly what I think Dad hoped for as his legacy.”
The Eugene Driker Award for Distinguished Service is intended to honor individuals who, like Driker, have performed extraordinary service on behalf of both the university and the community.
“His impact changed the face of our institution,” President Wilson said. “Eugene was one of a kind, and I feel so privileged to have known him and to have called him my friend. This award provides the opportunity for our community to understand the importance of all Eugene did for Wayne State University and Detroit, and serves as a model for others to emulate. This is a special award, to be granted to only a few.”
Future awards will be presented based on the emergence of a potential awardee rather than on a calendar basis, and will be at the discretion of the president, with concurrence from the Board of Governors.