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Explore Degrees

$1M matching gift fuels a transformative model for Detroit youth, educators, and communities

“The truest measure of whether you have been successful in life is asking the following question: ‘Have I in some way made a difference or made life better somehow, somewhere, for someone other than myself?’ If the answer to this question is yes, then that is true success.”

— Heinz C. Prechter 


Making a difference in this world was always the philanthropic motivation for Heinz and Waltraud (“Wally”) (ABEd ’79) Prechter. From their early investments in engineering education at UM-Dearborn to the founding of the Prechter Laboratory for Interactive Technology at the SOE to Mrs. Prechter’s creation of the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program at U-M, the family has given back by supporting innovative and educational initiatives around the Detroit area. Her recent matching gift supporting the SOE’s work on the Detroit P-20 Partnership continues the family’s tradition of giving both to U-M and to communities in the state of Michigan.

Both originally from small German hamlets, Heinz and Wally Prechter came to call southeast Michigan home approximately five decades ago. Mr. Prechter, who had launched a thriving automotive business in California, moved his operations to the Motor City in 1967. Mrs. Prechter, who had begun college in Germany, later joined him in Michigan and enrolled in the SOE to complete her training to become a teacher.

The Prechters became generous donors across southeast Michigan, giving out of a deep sense of gratitude and what Mrs. Prechter describes as “a conviction to help others.” Along with their financial support of many charities, the Prechters contributed their time to shape both local nonprofits and U-M schools and programs.

As a long-serving member of the Dean’s Advisory Council at the SOE, Mrs. Prechter became aware of a partnership forming around a shared vision of community-centered education in Detroit. She could see the potential for the new collaboration—called the Detroit P-20 Partnership—to be a hub for transformational approaches to education.

Partners, including the Marygrove Conservancy, Detroit Public Schools Community District, Starfish Family Services, The Kresge Foundation, and U-M, have created cradle-to-career educational offerings co-located on the former site of Marygrove College. The new campus is home to a preschool, a K-12 Detroit public school, family and community services, and a new model for teacher preparation called the Michigan Education Teaching School.

Waltraud ("Wally") Prechter (Photo by Tony Barchock)

Mrs. Prechter recognized the unique nature of this undertaking, and knew Detroit was the perfect city to develop what she believes will be a transferable model. “Detroit has an incredible chance to be a model for the rest of the country,” she says. “We can give cities great hope by demonstrating what’s possible when everyone works together to improve education, community, and opportunity.”

Eager to invest in the collaborative work of these partners and encourage others to do the same, Mrs. Prechter is offering to match up to $1 million in gifts that support the SOE’s work on the Detroit P-20 Partnership. Qualifying donations support teacher education students with scholarships as well as training in Detroit; advance curriculum development, implementation, and evaluation; and further the professional growth of Detroit educators.

Mrs. Prechter says, “I believe that we need to help children build self-confidence and become problem-solvers. Through educating youth to design creative solutions, we prepare the kind of leaders who will shape our communities in the future.”

She points to several ways the Detroit P-20 Partnership brings a fresh approach to education:

  • The Teaching School is a new model for teacher preparation based on medical training. U-M education students (called “interns”) and fully certified recent graduates (called “teaching residents”) work under the supervision of the school’s teaching staff and U-M faculty. Residents continue at the school as members of the teaching staff for three years, while still receiving support from U-M faculty and staff. The goal of this strategy is to train highly qualified teachers and retain them both in the profession and in the city.
  • The K-12 school—The School at Marygrove—offers a community-engaged educational experience. The curriculum and teaching practices empower Detroit students to learn engineering and design principles, become problem-solvers, and see themselves as leaders in their community.
  • The partnership is committed to a “community schools” approach, which directs attention and resources to all of a student’s needs. Services and supports will address students’ physiological, sociocultural, and socioemotional needs so that students and families alike can flourish. This approach has been proven in many settings to be a powerful method for improving educational opportunity.

“Under Dean Moje’s leadership, the School of Education is the place for educational innovation. Investing in innovative and forward-looking approaches to education is crucial. I hope our matching gift will act as a catalyst for others to support this groundbreaking educational partnership,” says Mrs. Prechter.

Moje emphasizes the potential of gifts like Prechter’s to bring about the kind of change that many have called for. She says, “We frequently hear people say that they want education to be better. Mrs. Prechter is challenging all of us to make significant strides together, right here in Detroit, and she’s committed to raising the resources needed for us to be successful.”

To learn more about the P-20 partnership, The School at Marygrove, and the collaborators’ vision for an educational campus that is strongly connected to its Detroit neighborhood, visit soe.umich.edu/p20.

Support the Detroit P-20 Partnership and get your gift matched 1:1

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