The Kresge Foundation has provided more than $16 million in support for Marygrove College in Detroit, support that has helped the institution through challenging economic times.

The Kresge Foundation has provided more than $16 million in support for Marygrove College in Detroit, support that has helped the institution through challenging economic times.

Photo provided by Kaylee Place

Marygrove College finds support from the Kresge Foundation

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published March 2, 2018

DETROIT — Thanks to approximately $16 million in grants and investments from the Kresge Foundation, Marygrove College in Detroit is continuing its recovery from financial instability and will remain a pillar of education in the city.

A $500,000 loan was recently made to help pay off a debt to Wayne County. This came after more than $15 million in support since 2016.

The administrators of the Kresge Foundation said that preserving Marygrove as both a school and an institution was an important cause that would help many people.

“There would have been simply unacceptable consequences had that 53-acre campus gone dark — especially now when the community should be gaining forward momentum,” said Rip Rapson, Kresge’s president and CEO. “This was simply not the time to see a community dragged down. We couldn’t stand by and allow that without doing everything in our power to steer the neighborhood to a different future.”

Approximately $16 million in grants and social investments have been used to finance the college’s ongoing academic programs and campus operations — including payroll, health benefits, and utility services; funding faculty, staff and student support programs through the wind-down of what was determined to be an unsustainable undergraduate program; and protecting the integrity of the campus as a key asset in the revitalization of its community.

The money also was used to create a new body, the Marygrove Conservancy, “to steward the campus as a community resource” through recent transitions. Additionally, the school is exploring the feasibility of establishing a “cradle-to-career” educational complex as a potential future use for the property.

“Kresge has supported the college with grants for a number of years,” explained Elizabeth Burns, the president of Marygrove. “They have supported our arts programming and assisted in the renovation of the campus buildings. Early on in my tenure as president, I realized that the college was in a precarious financial position. We would be out of cash rather quickly and wouldn’t be able to meet payroll and our other financial commitments. I sought help from the philanthropic community, and Kresge and others recognized the importance, impact and legacy of Marygrove and responded generously.”

Burns said the college has benefited from Kresge’s support in a number of ways during some challenging periods.

“Marygrove, its students and the community as a whole has and will continue to benefit from Kresge’s support in many ways,” she said. “We were able to make payroll and pay our bills; we were able to provide severance packages to our faculty and staff whom we had to release as the result of the Board of Trustees’ decision to close the undergraduate program; we are now also able to help with some transition costs that our undergraduate students who were at Marygrove for its last semester had to incur because they had to transfer to a new school.” 

One of the most significant issues in recent years for Marygrove was its transition to a graduate course-only institution. The decision was made by school administrators to eliminate the undergraduate courses in order to focus on its higher learning programs. While Burns said the support of Kresge helped the school weather the challenges, she said it was not a factor in the decision.

“The Kresge grants did not influence the board’s decision to maintain our graduate curriculum,” remarked Burns. “In their analysis, the board felt that our graduate programs are sustainable and allow Marygrove to continue its legacy and mission of education in the city of Detroit. Marygrove has offered great master’s level programs for over 50 years, and we’re continuing with our innovative education, human resource management and social justice programs, most of which are online for students’ convenience and affordability.”

Kresge Foundation leaders said that supporting Marygrove was an important initiative, not only for its educational merits but also for its importance as an anchor of culture and self-improvement in the surrounding area.

“The Livernois-McNichols dis-trict poses a key test of whether equitable recovery can take place in the neighborhoods of Detroit,” said Rapson. “In fact, in August 2015 — not many months before Marygrove President Dr. Elizabeth Burns contacted us to discuss the precarious situation there — University of Detroit Mercy, Kresge and other community partners announced the formation of the nonprofit Live6 Alliance to steward planning and development. Our collective goal was — and is — to enhance the quality of life and economic opportunity there. We’re paying special attention to the commercial corridors of Livernois Avenue and McNichols Road.”