The Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan (U-M) has received what it says is its single largest donation ever.
The $10 million gift is part of a $50 million pledge from businessman Richard Rogel and his wife Susan and includes $30 million for U-M’s Medical School and $10 million for future university initiatives.
“My goal was to make the University of Michigan’s Center for Chinese Studies the No 1 institute of its kind in the world,” Rogel told China Daily.
Graduating from what is now U-M’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business in 1970, Rogel is a successful investor and businessman who serves as the president of Tomay Inc and is the founder of Preferred Provider Organization of Michigan (which sold in 1997). Rogel’s latest contribution brings his lifetime giving to nearly $76 million.
“I think the center is extremely important and further strengthens the understanding between China and the US,” Rogel said. “More importantly, the University of Michigan is very engaged with China. It has been since 1880, when U-M President James Angell became the US minister to China.”
Rogel, who speaks a little Mandarin, has had a long-time relationship with China as well. He has been visiting China for 20 years. He has visited China 11 times this year and will make a 12th trip there on Sunday.
“I’m very involved personally in helping the university with guanxi in China,” he said. “So my wife and I felt it was very important to support the China center.”
According to the university, the donation to the Chinese Studies Center will bolster a strong program that spans studies of China’s history, literature, religion, art history, politics, economics, law and public health.
“The Rogel gift will significantly enhance our financial situation, but it is also building on a strong foundation,” said Mary Gallagher, director of the center.
Founded in 1961, U-M’s Center for Chinese Studies now has about 40 affiliated faculty members from across the university to research and teach on China.
The center currently offers a Master’s program in Chinese Studies and a doctoral associate program that supports PhD students in other departments. Some of its Master’s candidates are joint-degree students with business, law, and public policy, Gallagher said.
“The Rogel Gift will allow us to expand our support for faculty research and student fellowships,” she added.
The gift will also allow the center to expand its programming in academic talks, films, and conferences.
Currently, nearly half of the 8,491 international students enrolled at U-M are from China, which was the No 4 destination for its 1,946 students who studied abroad in the 2010-11 academic year. The university has official websites in Mandarin and a Sina Weibo account.
“There are more faculty and students with research interests in China coming from outside traditional area studies of the humanities and social sciences,” Gallagher said. “As our constituency becomes more diverse, we benefit from bringing in so much new expertise from other disciplines and approaches.”
“At the same time, we have opportunities to provide substantive knowledge of China, Chinese language, culture and history,” she added.