Conversation between former neighbors leads to $250,000 gift to Nursing

Conversation between former neighbors leads to $250,000 gift to Nursing
Diane (left) and Thom Linn with friends Ellen and Jeff Adler. The student lounge in the main lobby will be named for the Adler Family.

A few short months ago, Jeff and Ellen Adler had no connection to the College of Nursing.

They live in California.

She’s from Chicago. He’s a Spartan.

But thanks to a recommendation from some old friends, the Adlers recently presented a $250,000 gift that will provide desperately needed student scholarship support.

The gift was part of a $750,000, seven-organization donation the Adlers made to Detroit nonprofits. The College of Nursing received the largest portion of their gift, which was presented by the Adlers on Oct 28.

In recognition of the gift, the college will name the student lounge in the main lobby for the Adler Family, which was a surprise and delight to the Adlers. There are no restrictions on the gift because, Jeff Adler says, “We trust the people who do this every day – Nancy Artinian and her staff – they know what is needed most.”

There is no shortage of need in the college, according to Interim Dean Nancy Artinian.

“We are so thankful for the Adlers and their generous gift,” she says. “Our students will benefit tremendously because we will use their gift where our needs are greatest, and that is in the area of scholarships.

“This funding will allow us to continue to recruit and support the best students. Much of the work we do in the College of Nursing relates to health care disparities in urban areas, and we do a great deal of community outreach. The Adlers’ generosity will help us continue to address these important issues through the work our students and faculty do every day.”

Jeff Adler grew up in Huntington Woods and, as an adult, lived in North Rosedale Park. He and his wife, Bonnie, raised their family there. Career paths took them to other states and, eventually, Jeff created an accounting software company. He and Bonnie discussed their desire to make a gift that would benefit Detroit, provided the software company became lucrative enough to do so. As it was heading in that successful direction, Bonnie became ill with kidney cancer. After her death, Jeff met and married Ellen, who was supportive of his – then “their” – philanthropic goals.

“We’re in a unique situation where we can make a difference,” Jeff Adler says. “We wanted to give to organizations that could make meaningful differences and reward the people who have put in their time and effort to make this city better. We were here three years ago and we saw the devastation. Driving around Detroit was a remembrance of many wonderful things from growing up, but I had sadness from seeing things that were gone and the state of disrepair. But we did have joy in seeing the great work some organizations are doing, and building a great community.”

The Adlers were introduced to the work being done in the college by former neighbors Diane and Thom Linn. They lived near one another on the west side of Detroit about 30 years ago and when they wanted advice as to where their money could have the biggest impact, the Linns suggested the College of Nursing, Gleaners Community Food Bank, the Greening of Detroit, the Tiger Stadium Conservancy, the Detroit Waldorf School, the Community Chorus of Detroit and North Rosedale Park Civic Association.

“We have an overwhelming feeling of joy that we can help these people who are committed to doing what they’re doing every day,” Jeff Adler explains. “We’re fortunate that we can write a check, but the people who are doing this work every day to make the city better…they need to be recognized for doing something special. We hope that we are helping to ignite a spark with recognition of their work.”

Gifts at all levels are meaningful, the Adlers believe. “Everything helps,” Jeff says. “Pick a project that you care about and trust the people who are committed to it every day to make the right decision. Whether your gift is $10, $100 or $1,000– trust them to do what they do, and do it right.”

Ellen Adler echoes her husband’s beliefs. While a Midwesterner at heart, she was not too familiar with Detroit but is happy about the connection that has been forged between her family, the college and the city.

“There’s a lot of work still to do to revitalize things,” she says. “With the passionate people we have met, we expect it will get better – it always does. It’s a give and take – we all take so much – so you have to give back when you can.”

(Posted November 26, 2013)

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