Gift from William F. Pickard supports four new spaces in the School of Social Work

Gift from William F. Pickard supports four new spaces in the School of Social Work
Chacona Baugh, Bill Pickard and Jesse Jackson at a ceremony to celebrate Mr. Pickard's support of the School of Social Work.

Though William F. Pickard made his mark in business, his career started in social work. Before he became chairman and CEO of Global Automotive Alliance LLC and Vitec LLC, and was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to be the first chairman of the African Development Foundation, he earned a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and became a faculty member at the Wayne State University School of Social Work.

“Social work is an intricate part of my life,” said Pickard. “That’s my DNA.”

To honor his commitment to the profession and Wayne State’s role in educating social workers, Pickard gave $125,000 through the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to help refurbish four rooms in the School of Social Work’s new home, located in the former Detroit Institute for Children building at 5447 Woodward Avenue.

Pickard dedicated the rooms to people who encouraged and inspired him throughout his life. These renewed spaces provide advanced learning and research opportunities for social work students and greater opportunities for community engagement. The rooms are:

  • The William H. and Victoria Pickard Lounge, named for Pickard’s parents.
  • The Paul L. Hubbard Conference Room, named for the past director of economic development for the City of Toledo and former president of New Detroit, currently a consultant at Trivium Partners LLC, and a friend of Pickard.
  • The Maribodine Robinson Doctoral Research Room, named for the women’s suffrage and civil rights activist, and a friend and mentor to Pickard.
  • The Nick Scheele and Gary L. White Technology Conference Room and Research Lab, named for former executives at Ford Motor Company, as well as friends and mentors to Pickard.

The university recognized the gift with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the rooms on June 5, 2017. Attendees included honorees Paul Hubbard and Gary White, family members of Nick Scheele and Maribodine Robinson, and members of the social work community. The program featured guest speakers, as well as an impromptu appearance by civil rights activist Jesse Jackson.

“I’m just delighted to be here today to surprise my friend Bill Pickard,” said Jackson. “This investment is the highest and best use of money. Bill, you deserve to be rich, because you enrich the rest of us.”

The large gathering at the ceremony demonstrated the impact Pickard has had on others.

“He’s a very inspiring person,” said Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson at the event. “And as a social worker, he cares deeply about the community and its overall welfare.”

Outgoing School of Social Work Dean Cheryl Waites called the renovated building a highlight of her tenure as dean and thanked Pickard for his investment in social work education.

“Bill’s generous gift supports world-class social workers who will be educated right here in the heart of our city and region,” said Waites. “He’s established a lifetime mission of helping others, and that really defines him.”

In his remarks, Pickard reflected on the path that led him to the day and offered gratitude to his former employer.

“There’s a lot of talk in life about finding yourself, but a great author said, ‘You don’t find yourself, you create yourself,’” Pickard said. “I’d like to say to Wayne State and the School of Social Work, thanks for helping me create the Bill Pickard I like and love.”

(June 12, 2017)

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