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Grosse Pointe City, Harper Woods

WCCCD names University Center for longtime local trustee

March 12, 2013

Mary Ellen Stempfle

GROSSE POINTE CITY/HARPER WOODS — Mary Ellen Stempfle has been active with the Wayne County Community College District since well before the Harper Woods-based University Center even existed, so it seems only fitting that the building would now be named in her honor.

During an official naming ceremony Feb. 25, the WCCCD University Center — located in the heart of the district she represents — became the Mary Ellen Stempfle University Center. Stempfle has been a trustee for the WCCCD Board since 1994; she ran unopposed for another term last November.

During a Feb. 25 Grosse Pointe City Council meeting, Mayor Dale Scrace announced the honor for the longtime City resident. Her husband, John Stempfle, is a member of the City Council, and Mary Ellen Stempfle said she’s lived in the City for more than 24 years.

City Council member Jean Weipert was one of the officials who praised Mary Ellen Stempfle’s work.

“She’s dedicated a lot of time to Wayne County Community College, and I know she’s a very diligent and thoughtful trustee,” Weipert said after the meeting. “I’m thrilled they have seen to honor her in this manner.”

Stempfle, who owns the resale store Fashion $ense in Grosse Pointe Park, was delighted by the news, albeit a little embarrassed because she said she’s “kind of a shy person.”

“I’m very honored that the trustees would think of that,” she said of the building naming.

Stempfle has a bachelor of science degree in urban planning from Michigan State University and a master of arts degree in health care administration from Central Michigan University.

“I’ve always been interested in higher education, and I think community colleges are the way to go,” she said of running for WCCCD trustee. “It’s affordable education.”

The University Center offers a variety of classes and programs, from master gardening and conversational Spanish, to courses leading to baccalaureate and master’s degrees. It has partnership agreements with Michigan State University, Ferris State University, University of Michigan-Flint, Walsh College and Western Michigan University.

Since the University Center opened in 2008, Stempfle said many more students in her district — which includes the Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods — have taken advantage of WCCCD programs, since they now have a campus in their own backyard. There’s been a particular spike in the number of students who take courses over the summer and live at home, then transfer those to their four-year universities, she said.

“We have noticed an increase in (the number of students from) Grosse Pointe, and in Harper Woods, we have an accelerated program (for high school students to take college classes), and that has really taken off,” Stempfle said.

The University Center is the newest of WCCCD’s five campuses, and is housed in what used to be the Beacon East movie theater.

“We’re proud to recognize and honor the outstanding contributions and commitment of Trustee Stempfle,” WCCCD Chancellor Curtis L. Ivery said in a press release. “Our mission is to create pathways to better lives for all of the communities that we serve — a mandate that Trustee Stempfle has consistently put in action through her nearly 20 years of service. Her support and sure-sighted guidance has helped broaden our outreach to our constituents and grow our programs.”

Her husband, John Stempfle, was thrilled to see the college acknowledge his wife’s dedication.

“It’s well-deserved,” he said. “She’s done a great job for 19 years.”

Although the new nameplate hadn’t yet been affixed to the building at press time — it was still being made — a spokesperson for WCCCD said it would be installed soon.

For more information about WCCCD classes and programs, visit

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