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Ron Weiser donates $50 million to University of Michigan

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Ambassador Ronald N. Weiser and Eileen L. Weiser have made a $50 million gift to the University of Michigan. With this gift, the Weisers’ lifetime giving to the university totals $95.9 million.

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The gift marks a significant contribution to the university-wide Victors for Michigan campaign, which kicked off in 2013 with a goal of raising $4 billion. The Weisers, both alumni of the University of Michigan, are Vice Chairs on the Campaign Leadership Board.

“The Weisers’ very generous gift reflects their involvement throughout the university. Their support of emerging democracies, health care, teacher preparation, business education, the arts, and athletics is a tremendous vote of confidence in our work. This gift demonstrates their understanding of the need to provide opportunities for our students, ” U-M President Mark S. Schlissel said.

The gift includes $25 million designated to the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies (WCED), in the International Institute. The WCED studies how democracies emerge, the conditions necessary for assuring and extending political, social, and economic freedom, and how autocracies endure in Europe, Eurasia, and beyond.

The Weisers have long been committed to the study of emerging democracies, an interest that deepened in 2001-04 when Ron Weiser was tapped by President George W. Bush to serve as the ambassador to Slovakia, a country that faced considerable challenges in its transition to a democracy.

“When I was working with the Slovaks, I realized there are no books written, no roadmap, for a country to transition from an authoritarian government to a free society, ” Ambassador Weiser said. “Studying countries that have made the successful transition to democracy gives us an opportunity to help nations that are in the process of transitioning. We’re talking about people having the opportunity to come out from under the thumb of authoritarian rule, and with that freedom to have a better life for themselves and their children, as well as freedom from fear of their government, their police, and even their neighbors.”

In 2008, the Weisers donated $10 million to help establish the WCED as well as the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia (WCEE). The Centers promote faculty and student research of democratic and authoritarian regimes, host policymakers and researchers, organize conferences, and provide fellowships for the next generation of scholars who can apply their learning and experience in studying emerging democracies.

With the additional $25 million gift announced today, the WCED will be able to branch out to other parts of the world, collaborate with other schools and programs at U-M, and expand the international scholarship and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.

“This tremendous support will allow us to build an even more vibrant and dynamic research community and expand our thematic and geographic focus, ” said Anna Grzymala-Busse, director of the WCED and WCEE.

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