Vice president for research funds scholarship with $750,000 planned gift

Vice president for research funds scholarship with $750,000 planned gift
Hilary and Stuart Ratner were honored for their generosity at the university’s 42nd annual Charter Night, an event to recognize the university’s highest donors.

Hilary Horn Ratner, Ph.D., vice president for research at Wayne State University, and her husband, Stuart Ratner, Ph.D., a retired professor from the School of Medicine and currently a lawyer with Kohn and Associates, recently documented a planned gift of $750,000 to further fund the Gena Ellen Ratner Endowed Memorial Scholarship in the Wayne State University College of Education.

The scholarship in memory of the Ratners’ daughter is awarded to acknowledge scholastic achievement, encourage continued academic progress, and provide assistance to students intending to become special education teachers. Ten students have received the scholarship since the Ratners first established the fund in 2006 with a gift of $25,000.

The Ratners’ daughter, Gena Ellen, was born on New Year’s Eve in 1993 and lived for eight years. She had Rett Syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about one in every 10,000 to 15,000 live female births. The symptoms, beginning in the earliest years of life, include cognitive impairment, seizures and stereotypic hand movements. In 1999, scientists discovered the gene mutation that causes the disorder but there is no cure at the present time.

The Ratners established the scholarship to support students who will help children like Gena have a richer life. They indicated that they feel fortunate to have found wonderful teachers with the imagination and energy to invent activities that kept Gena stimulated and engaged with the world. Gena’s teachers at Early On, Penrickton Center for Blind Children, Carr and LeBlanc Schools, and the Lekotek play program discovered music, toys and motions that challenged and delighted her.

“Gena was a beautiful girl who laughed and giggled, loved music, and enjoyed going places. Gena’s special education teachers were so important in enriching her experience, as well as ours, and so we wanted to help make sure that students who want to work with children with disabilities have the financial opportunity to do so,” said Dr. Hilary Ratner. “Our additional commitment will now allow even more students to fulfill their aspirations to become special education teachers.”

The Ratners’ scholarship gift is one of love and remembrance for their daughter as well as for the university and Detroit’s Lafayette Park that they have called home for more than 30 years. Dr. Hilary Ratner joined the faculty of Wayne State University as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in 1981 and became a professor in 1993. She has served as associate dean and dean of the Graduate School, as well as associate provost, adding International Programs to her duties while dean of the Graduate School. She was appointed vice president for research in 2007. A native of New York, Dr. Stuart Ratner joined the Michigan Cancer Foundation in 1982 and continued as a research professor at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. After his retirement, Dr. Ratner earned a law degree from Wayne State in 2011.

“We are committed to the city and the community,” said Dr. Hilary Ratner. “Having benefited from public education ourselves, we believe deeply in the mission of Wayne State University to provide quality education and paths to opportunity for everyone no matter their background.”

When asked what is the most powerful thing a scholarship recipient could say in thanking the Ratners for their support, Dr. Stuart Ratner responded, “That the scholarship helped them complete their education and they can now pursue a career that they love.”

Posted December 16, 2013

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