U. of Michigan M.F.A. Program Receives a $50-Million Gift

The liberal arts may be facing waning public financial support and increased pressure to show their career benefits to graduates, but the University of Michigan’s graduate program in creative writing just received a hefty vote of confidence. The Associated Press reports that Helen Zell, wife of the billionaire Sam Zell and a Michigan alumna, is making a $50-million gift to the program.

Ms. Zell has donated about $10-million to the university in recent years via the Zell Family Foundation, of which she is executive director. The new gift—the third largest in the institution’s history, according to the AP—will support Michigan’s renowned Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, which will be renamed in her honor. The program’s unusual year of postgraduate support is already known as a “Zellowship.”

Ms. Zell graduated from Michigan in 1964 with a degree in English. Mr. Zell, also a Michigan alumnus and past donor to the university, made his fortune in real estate. He landed in the headlines in the mid-’00s with a leveraged buyout of the  Tribune Company, which subsequently entered bankruptcy.

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