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The Marsal Family School of Education

A transformational investment in a bold vision for the future of education


In the quest for a just and equitable society, education stands as a cornerstone, empowering individuals and bridging the gaps that divide us. However, despite the widespread recognition of education’s importance, the expertise and dedication of educators often go undervalued. Kathleen Marsal (ABEd ’72, TeachCert ’72), along with her family—Bryan (BBA ’73, MBA ’75), Michael (BBA ’10, La Salle University), and Megan Marsal Kirsch (ABEd ’14, TeachCert ’14)—believes that access to quality education is the key to success in life, and that its absence breeds conflict and perpetuates inequality.

“People say ‘Well, of course we want a quality education for all children,’” says Kathleen Marsal. “The key to having success in life is to have an education and you access quality education by having strong teachers. But too many people don’t value the expertise of educators. We hear people say ‘Why would you want to be a teacher?’ even as they focus much of their effort on attaining a great education for their own children.” 

Moje Grad Event 2023

The Marsal family’s deep commitment to the transformative power of education led them to witness the profound disparities that persist in our society. Determined to effect change, they became tireless advocates for the teaching profession and the vital work carried out by educators. Recognizing the pressing need for a comprehensive and inclusive approach to education, the Marsal family recently made a momentous $50 million contribution. Their historic gift, one of the largest ever made to a school or college of education anywhere in the country, prompted the unanimous vote of the University of Michigan Regents to bestow an enduring honor, naming the school the Marsal Family School of Education.

Humble Beginnings in Homeroom

Bryan and Kathleen attended the University of Michigan in the early 1970s, with Katheen receiving a bachelor’s degree in education and a teaching certificate in addition to completing an accounting program, and Bryan receiving a bachelor’s and later a master’s degree in business administration. Kathleen was interested in using her degree to teach, but the teaching job market was deteriorating at that time, so she pursued accounting, ultimately becoming vice president and director of taxes at Citibank. In the early 1980s, Bryan co-founded Alvarez & Marsal, a consulting firm that delivers specialized business advisory and crisis management services to distressed and underperforming companies.

As they built their careers, they also raised their two children, Michael and Megan, in New York.

A Family Affair

Following in the footsteps of her parents, Megan Marsal enrolled at the University of Michigan in the early 2010s. Initially pursuing a path in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts with thoughts of becoming a political science major, Megan's journey took an unexpected turn when a friend from her residence hall suggested she explore the field of teaching. Guided by her deep-seated passion for working with children, nurtured through experiences as a camp counselor and a dedicated volunteer at the Carver Center in Port Chester, New York, Megan’s interest in the realm of education was ignited.

Immersing herself in the introductory education coursework, particularly EDUC 118: Schooling and a Multicultural Society—a course crafted by Professor Anne Gere—Megan discovered a transformative approach to learning. This unique educational experience embraced a reflective process that fostered thoughtfulness and intentionality in shaping one’s own practice. It was an invigorating departure from traditional student experiences, which Megan loved. As the program unfolded, it deepened her passion for teaching.

“The school did a great job of teaching me how to think differently and approach teaching differently by becoming a part of the community I was teaching in,” she says. After graduating, Megan taught in schools in New York City and Michigan, and earned a master’s degree in early childhood education from Oakland University. She continues to work on early education design as part of Dr. Nell Duke’s Great First Eight curriculum development team.

Sustaining Connection

The strong connection the Marsal family maintained with the University of Michigan took on new significance when the former dean, Deborah Loewenberg Ball, approached them about the School of Education’s efforts to enhance teacher education. For Kathleen, this interaction triggered a reflection on her own experience in the program more than three decades earlier—one that left her feeling ill-equipped and unsupported during her time as a 12th-grade civics student-teacher.


Excited by the advancements made in the school’s educator preparation programs (EPP), Kathleen eagerly joined the dean's advisory council. She was captivated by the evolution of the program, which immerses all EPP students in real classrooms right from the start, providing them with extensive supervision and feedback. As teaching interns, these aspiring educators gradually assume greater responsibilities while honing the essential skills required for effective teaching. Students benefit from the mentorship of seasoned teachers, constructive input from their peers, exposure to learning theories and evidence-based teaching practices, and unwavering support from faculty members who bring research into practical application.

Kathleen and Bryan found themselves captivated by the School of Education’s innovative approach to integrating research and practice. They witnessed firsthand the school’s dedication not only to its graduating teachers but also to the communities they served. It became evident to the Marsals that the School of Education was far from being business as usual: it was a place committed to making a lasting impact, and they were eager to contribute to its mission.

Understanding the importance of providing support for education students to thrive, the Marsals chose to invest in areas that would empower future teachers. They established scholarships to assist aspiring educators, ensuring that financial barriers would not impede their journey toward success. Additionally, Kathleen and Bryan recognized the need for comprehensive career support to help graduates navigate the unique landscape of education professions. In 2014, their generous contribution led to the establishment of the school’s dedicated career services office, which aimed to equip graduates with the tools and guidance necessary to excel in their professional lives.

Kathleen expressed their intentions: “We wanted to ensure that graduates could apply what they’ve learned and achieve success in their careers beyond the classroom." By seeding the career services office and providing ongoing support, the Marsals demonstrated their firm belief in the potential of every education graduate, reinforcing their commitment to fostering excellence in the field and empowering educators to make a lasting difference.

When Dean Elizabeth Birr Moje became dean in 2016, Kathleen eagerly embraced the opportunity to extend her involvement as a member of the dean's advisory council. Marsal and Moje pursued their shared commitment to addressing the pressing challenge of nationwide teacher shortages, along with other issues that undermine children’s access to quality education and impede their opportunities to learn. United by their convictions, they embarked on a collaborative journey to effect meaningful change and create a more equitable educational landscape for all.

“The Marsals have helped us think through many aspects of teacher recruitment from connecting with students earlier in their education journeys to supporting graduates’ growth throughout their careers. They have encouraged us to be bold and ambitious,” says Moje.

In the last several years, the Marsals have been particularly strong advocates for the Detroit P-20 Partnership and its Marygrove Learning Community, together with the first-year admission route for undergraduates who want to study multiple dimensions of education, especially in the learning sciences. Both initiatives have seen rapid progress and are connected in important ways.

In 2018, the Detroit P-20 Partnership launched, drawing together Starfish Family Services, the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the Kresge Foundation, the Marygrove Conservancy, and the U-M School of Education. “We are proud that the school works hand-in-hand with a public school to do the most innovative, promising, and exciting work being done in the field of education today,” Bryan says. “They could bring their expertise and resources to bear on curriculum development, teacher training, and program evaluation anywhere but they choose to do it where it matters most and with partners whose values align with theirs.” 

The flourishing Marygrove campus is home to The Michigan Education Teaching School, which advances the school’s efforts to prepare future teachers, support early- career teachers, and honor the expertise of experienced teachers, while also providing the best possible education for Detroit children. Drawing on aspects of the medical training model that prepares doctors to be physicians, the Teaching School provides the support teachers deserve so that they may persist and prosper in the profession. The Marsals are excited by the early successes of this model, and are eager to see how it evolves and grows to serve many more educators. 

In the fall of 2024, the Marygrove community will experience further expansion as incoming U-M freshmen join the campus for a one-year residency as part of an innovative Bachelor of Arts in Education program known as Learning, Equity, and Problem-Solving for the Public Good, or LEAPS. This development aligns perfectly with the Marsal family’s fervent aspiration for the Marsal Family School of Education to admit first-year students. U-M has enthusiastically approved a groundbreaking proposal for a truly exceptional undergraduate degree, one that delves into the study of education through project-based, research-enriched, and community-embedded learning experiences in both Detroit and Ann Arbor communities. 

A Monumental Gift

As unwavering advocates of the School of Education’s research and teaching endeavors, the Marsal family embarked on a mission to usher in a new era at the institution, embracing a clear vision for the future. During the U-M Board of Regents meeting on February 16, 2023, President Santa J. Ono proudly announced their remarkable gift: “Each of us was a student at one point. All of us are here together thanks to an educator. Someone who saw something special in us, who taught us, who opened our eyes and who lifted our lives. An education is the greatest gift we can give. So I’m so pleased to share with all of you that, thanks to the incredible efforts of Dean Elizabeth Birr Moje, we have received a historic gift for our School of Education. The Marsal family has made a commitment of $50 million, with their total giving to the school exceeding $55 million.”


Expressing gratitude for the family’s exceptional generosity, Vice President for Development Tom Baird commended their tireless advocacy for the school and their previous contributions that supported education students, graduates, and aspiring teachers. “The proposed name [for the School of Education] intentionally represents the whole Marsal family: Kathleen, Bryan, Michael, and Megan. They have all served as tireless advocates for the school with previous gifts supporting education students, graduates, and future teachers. Their latest $50 million commitment is incredible. It is truly transformational. Naming a school in their honor cannot be a more fitting tribute for their commitment to the School of Education, in particular.”

Kathleen, speaking on behalf of the family, emphasized their hope that society recognizes the crucial role of education in ensuring its survival and promoting equity. They firmly believe that education is a fundamental right and serves as the bedrock for fostering a more equitable society. “Our hope is that all people will recognize that education is crucial for the survival of society. Education is a right and it’s the foundation for equity,” says Kathleen. “We hope to leave an indelible mark on the School of Education, propelling it toward a future where education serves as a catalyst for positive change, equity, and societal well-being.”

Megan added that their focus is laser sharp on elevating the role of teachers in bringing about the change they envision: “We look forward to a day when teachers’ expertise is universally esteemed and their invaluable contributions are respected. Recognizing the significance of this perspective in attracting new teachers and retaining experienced educators, our family is dedicated to championing the cause of educators as key agents of transformation.”

A Transformative Future

The Marsal family will continue its transformative journey driven by their unwavering conviction that education holds the key to a unified and prosperous future. Their philanthropic support has established a groundbreaking precedent, highlighting the pressing need to ensure universal access to education, enabling individuals to unlock their full potential and shape their own destinies. The Marsal Family School of Education stands as a testament not only to their remarkable legacy, but also to our collective responsibility as a society to ensure that education becomes a beacon of opportunity for all. Michael Marsal, Founding Partner of Alvarez & Marsal Property Investments, adds: “We are honored to have this opportunity to be a part of an effort that will be so instrumental in shaping a better path forward for students and educators alike. What’s more, the ability to do so in such a way that uniquely extends beyond the confines of a single institution and its immediate constituents, only adds to the impact of this endeavor.”  


As staunch advocates of the school’s research and teaching endeavors, the Marsal family finds inspiration and hope in the people and initiatives of the institution. Their monumental commitment of $50 million will support a range of initiatives aimed at preparing and empowering a diverse population of teachers, forging strong partnerships with schools and communities, and conducting collaborative research with education practitioners. Kathleen eloquently expresses their motive, stating, “Ultimately, we are investing in what we believe in, and that’s the U-M School of Education.”

Over the next few years, this extraordinary gift will drive a multitude of initiatives that the Marsal family has played a pivotal role in planning and advocating for. These include the introduction of an innovative undergraduate degree program that will offer new pathways for U-M students to engage in the study of education, the continued expansion of initiatives in partnership with the Detroit P-20 Partnership, enhanced financial support for future and early-career educators, and a steadfast commitment to fostering a diverse, inclusive, just, and equitable educational experience for both university and preK-12 learners.

To ensure the sustained impact of their contribution, the majority of the gift will be invested in the university’s endowment, ensuring that current and future generations students will benefit from this extraordinary act of generosity. 

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