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Champions for Education

Leslie and Alex Arker
Leslie and Alex Arker

As soon as they learned about the Marsal School’s involvement in the P-20 Partnership on the Marygrove campus in Detroit, Leslie and Alex Arker were eager to commit their support. The couple has recently established The Leslie and Alex Arker Fund for LEAPS, which will provide flexible support for the Marsal School’s new undergraduate major, Learning, Equity, and Problem Solving (LEAPS) for the Public Good. Inspired by Dean Moje’s passion for the teaching profession—and specifically by her focus on literacy—they are also thrilled to make possible The Leslie & Alex Arker Scholarship, which will benefit students in the Marsal School. The Arkers hope that the scholarship’s financial assistance will be helpful to students who intend to enter the rewarding profession of teaching.


Peurach and Baldwin
Professor and EdHub founder Donald Peurach with MaryNell Baldwin of the Baldwin Family Foundation

Launched in 2022, the EdHub is rapidly emerging as a vibrant center of intellectual engagement, online development, and community building at the Marsal School. From its inception, the EdHub has engaged master’s and doctoral students in developing its vision and identity, building its web presence and communication strategies, designing and facilitating online learning opportunities, and recruiting external collaborators to support design efforts. The Baldwin Foundation EdHub Design Internship will provide the resources needed to integrate graduate student participation into the core work of the EdHub at a moment when it is poised to accelerate the development of community engagement opportunities, open access courses, and professional development workshops. 

The Baldwin Family Foundation makes grants that principally focus on the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area and that generally have active involvement by family members. The foundation has regularly supported the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and more recently, Grand Valley State University, as well as specific arts, educational, and humanitarian projects.

The foundation focuses on investing in projects in their early stages. For example, it was the first foundation to seed a number of projects that were then able to expand because other foundations and donors saw the value to the community of the initial project.

Dana Baldwin, president of the foundation, says, “Supporting the EdHub at the Marsal Family School of Education is typical of the grants we often make. As this project gets off the ground, other foundations and donors are likely to join in supporting the growth and expansion of the EdHub concept within the Marsal Family School of Education.”


Joseph B. Cejka (MS ’40) was a first generation American, born to parents who came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia. When he began school, he spoke only Czech. He made his way through the Detroit public school system, then received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Wayne State University and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. 

“He was very outspoken about his gratitude to this country for allowing him to get an education, run a business, and then to have some financial success,” says his daughter, Barbara Littleton (BS ’68, MS ’69). “Giving back was extremely important to him.” As the steward of the Joseph B. Cejka and Florence V. Cejka Foundation, Inc. she is grateful for the opportunity to extend her parents’ generosity.

When Littleton and her husband David Littleton (MBA ’66) decided to make the foundation’s most recent gift to the Marsal School, they were intentional about its name. Instead of naming it for her parents, they chose to call it The SOE Detroit Transportation Fund

“Part of that is to encourage other people to make gifts to the fund,” says Littleton. Down the road, she hopes potential donors—perhaps recent graduates—will see the name and understand that a little can go a long way. The fund will be used to cover commuting costs for Marsal School students doing fieldwork at The School at Marygrove (TSM) in Detroit. Students who do their internships and residencies at TSM have to pay transportation costs between Ann Arbor and Detroit out of pocket, which can add up to thousands of dollars each year.

“It’s really important to me that my gift makes a difference,” says Barbara. “So when the Marsal School came to me with this need of transportation, it was a good example of where a more modest gift could make a significant difference to individual students. 

“Projects that are going to help facilitate outstanding teaching in underserved communities are something we’re happy to support. If helping a student get to a teacher training experience a little distance from Ann Arbor is part of that picture, then that’s just really fun to be able to do.”


Pomerance family
Brad, Paige, and Tina Pomerance

Dime más. Tell me more. Paige Pomerance remembers her Spanish-speaking nanny asking this question each day when she came home from school. At the time, Pomerance’s mother was in and out of the hospital, battling a chronic illness. Prompted by her nanny’s inquiry, Pomerance had a lot to say—she loved school, especially her fourth grade teacher. Now a first-year in U-M’s Teacher Education Preferred Admit (TEPA) program, Pomerance, who is double majoring in Spanish, plans to use her linguistic skills to teach Spanish-speaking students English. 

“We are incredibly proud that Paige has taken this path,” says her father, Brad. “We wanted to honor her and other future teachers.” Along with his wife, Tina, the couple have established The Pomerance Family Scholarship to support undergraduate students who have demonstrated an interest in pursuing a degree in elementary teacher education at the Marsal School. The family believes that teachers encourage, inspire, and have the power to change the course of their students' lives. 

“Teachers are changing the world,” says Tina. “We need to value them more in this country.”

Currently, Paige is taking EDUC 118 Introduction to Education: Schooling and Multicultural Society. She’s riveted. “I’m actually learning about learning—how different students approach learning and problem solving.” 

Like the teacher who inspired her to become a teacher, Paige plans to teach fourth grade. 

“At that age, students are questioning everything. They’re taking everything in. I want to honor their curiosity and encourage them to keep asking questions.” She looks forward to the day she can ask her own students to tell her more. Dime más. She will be ready to listen.


Evonne Putnam
Evonne M. Putnam

Graham Putnam (AB ’69, MBA ’71) comes from a long line of educators. His grandfather was a superintendent of schools in the 1930s and ’40s. His mother was a classroom teacher and teacher’s aide her entire career. So it came as no surprise when his sister Evonne (ABEd ’63, TeachCert ’63) chose to carry on the family tradition. “She had grown up in that environment, surrounded by teachers,” recalls Putnam, who was six years her junior. 

Evonne Putnam took her first teaching job at age 21, and remained with the Lansing School District until her untimely death in 1990 at age 48. By then, she had held numerous positions within the district, ultimately becoming the assistant superintendent in charge of instruction.

Recently, Putnam and his wife Kathryn (MBA ’76) established the Evonne M. Putnam Future Educators Endowed Scholarship Fund to honor his sister’s memory and professional contributions. The endowed fund provides scholarship support to Marsal School students who are pursuing the profession of teaching, particularly those with financial need.

The Putnams, who first met as participants on their high school debate team, reconnected a decade later at a U-M football game. For 40 years, they ran a manufacturing and distribution business in Chicago that specialized in magic tricks, novelty items, and products for the toy industry. They worked hard, but they also enjoyed themselves—after all, the company was called Fun Inc. 

Today, the Putnams are retired and live in Dexter, Michigan. They are proud that their daughter, a professor in Bloomington, Indiana, is carrying on the family legacy of teaching.

“People are leaving the field of education all the time,” says Putnam. “We need more good people, trained people, in the classroom. Hopefully we can encourage people to join the profession, and make it easier for them to go back to school to get credentials to become teachers.”


Speigl Family
The Speigl family

School always came easy to Michael Speigl (AB ’03), who grew up in a rural farming community in western Michigan. But when he got to U-M as a freshman, he quickly saw that he had not been prepared for the academic challenge that lay ahead.

“The workload was different than what I’d seen in the past,” recalls Speigl. “The expectations were much higher than what I was used to. I realized I was going to have to adapt and change to come at this in a different way than I had come at education previously.”

Speigl later settled in Florida, where he founded PrepandMe, a nonprofit that helps hard-working students from Title I schools advance their educational careers. Speigl recognized the limitations local students faced—financially, culturally, and otherwise—were the same as those that he and the kids he’d grown up with had encountered.

A proud U-M alum, Speigl sought advice from Dean Moje as his organization grew. 

“She gave us a lot of best practices on what kids need and how to support them, as well as mistakes to avoid. She’s been super giving and helpful to PrepandMe, so we’ve tried to support the Marsal School as well.” 

Along with his wife Ashley (who is a former schoolteacher) Speigl has given to the Prechter Detroit Education Fund, which supports the Marsal School’s work in the Detroit P-20 Partnership, and to the Dean's Discretionary Fund

“I love the university, and I feel very appreciative of what it did for me as a young man, and making me the man I am today. I am looking for as many ways as possible to give back and to help young students who are about to enter the world.”

MORE FROM Spring 2023

Since she was 12 years old, Leah Waxman has known she wanted to be a teacher. When she finished sixth grade, her elementary school invited her to come back and “lend a hand” with a summer program that helped young children transition into kindergarten
When she retired from the Marsal School in 2021, Professor Emerita Pat King knew she wanted to continue to give back to the community that had given her so much
A transformational investment in a bold vision for the future of education
A new major called Learning, Equity, And Problem Solving for the Public Good (LEAPS) will create learning leaders equipped to tackle the largest—and most pressing—issues we face
Each award recognizes the incredible accomplishments of alumni, whether they are newer to their careers, or seasoned professionals
Nell Duke and team design the first comprehensive full-day curriculum for children ages 0-8 with attention to academic and socio-emotional development
An innovative approach to teacher education delivers on its promise