Wayne State's campaign to make more pivotal moments

Wayne State's campaign to make more pivotal moments
Stephanie Reisdorf, a student in the Department of Music, plays violin during The Premiere.

October 9 was an exciting day on campus as the university launched Pivotal Moments: Our Campaign for Wayne State University. The campaign has an ambitious goal to raise $750 million by 2018, the university’s 150th anniversary.

The celebration began with The Showcases, hosted by the university’s schools, colleges, institutes and programs. Events across campus included guided tours, student performances, lectures, meet-and-greets and more. Guests also put on hard hats for a walking tour of the Student Center renovation and took bus tours of Midtown, led by knowledgeable D:hive guides. 

After The Showcases, guests moved to the Hilberry Theatre for The Premiere, which officially launched the campaign by celebrating Wayne State’s pivotal moments. Guests were greeted by cheering students as they walked up the green-and-gold carpet to the theatre.

The program began with the introduction of the evening’s emcees, Edmund Alyn Jones ’13 M.F.A. and Sydney Machesky, a current theatre and public relations major. Student and faculty speakers and performers then demonstrated the four campaign priorities to inspire, discover, create and engage.


Wayne State seeks to inspire students and faculty to be curious and passionate. One passionate student is Nick Rivera, a senior psychology major. He shared how a service learning experience with Young Detroit Builders inspired him to make a career of helping others. “I’m reaching for something that’s not just me anymore,” said Rivera. “It’s what can my degree do for others, and that’s something Wayne State really taught me.” The inspire priority will support students through endowed scholarships, internships, study abroad and success programs.


The Premiere also featured Dr. Moriah Thomason, an assistant professor in pediatrics at the School of Medicine and in the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development. Thomason spoke about the value of student involvement in research and the importance of Wayne State’s urban setting. “For the kind of research that I do, it is very important that the community is connected to us,” said Thomason. “I really don’t believe that I could do the research that I’m doing as well in any other environment.”

Through the Pivotal Moments campaign, Wayne State will discover new approaches, solutions and areas of inquiry through multidisciplinary, translational and applied research. The discover priority will support endowed faculty positions and research funds.


After an energetic performance by students in the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance, The Premiere provided another example of how students create. Maha Fakherddine ’14 B.S., a first year medical student at Wayne State, spoke about her undergraduate experience in the College of Engineering and how the university enabled her to create through the biomedical engineering labs. “The teaching labs, where engineering students work, are crucial to our success,” said Fakherddine. “We learn things in the classroom and then we immediately get hands-on practice.”

Throughout Wayne State’s many schools, colleges and programs, students and faculty create fresh expressions of existing knowledge. The create priority will support facilities, including the Integrative Biosciences Center (IBio), the Hilberry Gateway Project and the Student Center renovation.


Wayne State is more than just a physical presence in its neighborhood. The university engages through community service, enriching the culture and economy of Detroit and beyond. One example of this engagement is the Law School’s Legal Advocacy for People with Cancer Clinic, directed by Kathryn Smolinski ’11 J.D.

The clinic helps community members while providing students with critical hands-on experiences. “The students can take a leadership role in really assisting the clients,” said Smolinski. Regarding what students learn, she added, “they’re never going to forget the resiliency of the human spirit.” The engage priority will support educational outreach, community programs, lectures, conferences and Midtown partnerships.

A pivotal moment

The Premiere approached its finale with remarks from Debbie Dingell, chair of the Board of Governors, and President M. Roy Wilson. President Wilson shared his vision for Wayne State University and encouraged everyone in the audience to join in the campaign. 

“Wayne State has an unprecedented opportunity to emerge as a leader in public higher education, not just in Michigan, but in the nation,” said Wilson. “As you’ve seen today, we’re on our way. However, we can do more, and Pivotal Moments is a critical first step.”

The Premiere ended with another pivotal moment for Wayne State University, as an exciting announcement by alumnus James A. Anderson ’66 BSCE, ’70 MSCE brought the audience to their feet. Anderson and his wife, Patricia, will give $25 million to support entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering, making them the university’s most generous donors. Learn more about the Andersons’ gift.

An evening of celebration

After The Premiere, the university held a special dinner to celebrate Wayne State’s most generous supporters. The Gala included student actors presenting pivotal moment stories and an outstanding performance by Detroit’s acclaimed Selected of God choir.

As guests left The Gala, they strolled through hundreds of students celebrating campaign launch at a special Thursdays in the D event. The university hosted a street fair on Reuther Mall with food, dancing, giveaways and performances by student organizations. President Wilson and First Lady Jacqueline Wilson even joined in the fun, dancing and snapping selfies with students.

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