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Donor Stories

The University of Michigan Museum of Art is grateful for the support that it receives from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government agencies. The generosity of our donors enable UMMA to be both the cultural heart of the University of Michigan and a vital resource for the southeast Michigan community and beyond.

For information on how you can support UMMA, visit our Make A Gift page.

Meet Our Donors

Linda BennettGrowing up in Ohio, Linda Bennett (MS ’70, MPH ’75) spent countless hours with her father, Dr. Albert Bennett, exploring the Cleveland Museum of Art. A physician and scientist, Dr. Bennett was measured and precise, but his interest in art was organic and unbridled. He nurtured this passion for art in his daughter Linda, who took art classes and even considered a career in medical illustration, combining her dual interests in science and art. 

Linda’s life took a different path, however, and after retiring from a long and rewarding career in fundraising, Linda returned to the arts by becoming an UMMA docent. When her father passed away she created an endowment in his name at UMMA—a natural way to honor to his love of art. The Dr. Albert Bennett UMMA Education Fund supports teaching and learning at the Museum, and has served as not only a tribute to her father but also as a way for Linda to support a program that she cares deeply about—the Museum’s volunteer docents. 

Linda calls the docent program “the best job I have never been paid for” and her philanthropic philosophy is deeply inspired by her father and is based on the Jewish tenet of Tokkun olam, which translates to “heal the world.” By supporting UMMA and arts education with an endowed fund, Linda is extending this legacy and providing key funding for the program in perpetuity.  

Faith (BA ’69) and Stephen (BA ’66, JD ’69) Brown are deeply passionate about the University of Michigan where their experiences as students kindled many lifelong interests, including a love of art. 

In 2013, the Browns made a generous provision in their estate plan to establish the Faith and Stephen Brown Craft Exhibition Fund, which will support exhibitions in the areas of 20th and 21st century textiles, glass, ceramics, jewelry, woodwork, and related crafts. UMMA has already benefitted greatly from Faith and Stephen’s passion for craft—in 2000 the Museum showcased highlights from their spectacular quilt collection; the exhibition toured to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. and the Spencer Museum of Art at Kansas University. 

The Browns’ contribution to the future vitality of U-M extends well beyond UMMA’s doors. Faith and Stephen have also made estate provisions that will fund professorships in urology, law, and American literature, as well as merit scholarships in the College of Literature, Science & the Arts and the Law School. The Browns’ legacy will have a demonstrable impact on future generations of Michigan students and faculty. 

Jim Frenza

A lifelong lover of the arts, Jim Frenza grew up on Detroit’s east side and regularly visited the Detroit Institute of Arts as a child. After retiring as the Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum in 2004, Jim jumped at the chance to enroll in the UMMA docent program. 

“The UMMA docent experience has been life-changing,” Jim says. “I am thrilled to contribute to such an important part of our community.”  

When the UMMA Docent Endowment Fund was established in 2015 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the program, Jim included the fund in his estate plans through a bequest. 

“The UMMA Docent Endowment Fund is ideal because it’s at the intersection of the arts and education,” he says. “And, a planned gift is a great way to support organizations that I feel strongly about.”

Deb Masten and John Mansfield with their daughter Betsy.With a combined 64 years of service to the University of Michigan between them, Deb Masten (BA ’80) and John Mansfield are highly engaged across the U-M campus. 

Michigan football season ticket holders for the past forty years, they also support the U-M Physics Department and Museum of Natural History. Their love of the University and all that it offers the campus and community is a large part of the reason that they support UMMA with a Curator’s Circle membership. 

While they don’t have a background in the arts—John is a Research Scientist at the U-M College of Engineering and Deb leads software licensing for U-M Information & Technology Services—they have made UMMA, and the arts, a key part of their lives. They utilize the member benefit of free reciprocal admission at museums in their extensive travels and regularly attend special events, tours, and lectures at the Museum. 

And they have passed their love of museums on to their daughter, Betsy, who first introduced them to UMMA through tours with her Ann Arbor elementary school. Betsy graduated from Duke University in spring 2016, and spent many hours at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art studying in the common spaces and meeting friends in the galleries. 

In 2013, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation reaffirmed their commitment to collections-based teaching and learning at UMMA through a $1 million grant that endows and sustains the Museum’s signature humanities initiatives. The grant included a $750,000 challenge grant to endow the Museum’s Mellon Manager of Academic Outreach and Teaching position and $250,000 in expendable support for UMMA’s Collections Assistant and the UMMA-History of Art Fellowship. Support from the Mellon Foundation helps UMMA sustain and increase academic access to the Museum’s collections and expands teaching and learning resources to new fields of study—building awareness of Museum resources on the U-M campus and beyond. 

The grant also benefits the UMMA-History of Art Curatorial Research Fellowship, which pairs U-M History of Art doctoral students with the Museum’s collections, developing new research, exhibitions, and teaching resources. 

In 2014, UMMA received a Challenge Grant of $500,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support Dynamic Humanities Connections—an initiative that will transform the Museum’s significant onsite achievements in humanities programming into a sustained, consistent effort that impacts UMMA’s visitors and users around the world. 

The funding will partially endow key UMMA education team positions and their work to further diversify the voices involved in content production; extend the lifespan and relevance of programming; and create a digital platform to enable students, teachers, and visitors to become active participants in humanities learning. 

“The NEH grant will allow UMMA to engage with multiple humanistic disciplines to deepen understanding of cultural diversity, tradition, and creativity,” Museum Director Joseph Rosa explains. “It will further UMMA’s connections with contemporary questions and bring the next generation of scholars and patrons into the Museum—both onsite and via new technology-based interpretive tools that offer visitors richer and more varied experiences.” 

Two families, who are among the most enthusiastic supporters of UMMA’s commitment to teaching and learning, have made generous gifts to help realize a key Museum priority—to build stronger bonds with the academic enterprise.

In 2015, Richard (BA ’53) and Rosann Noel (above right) along with the Benedek Family Foundation—guided by Peter Benedek (BA ’70, below right)—pledged gifts to match challenge grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Combined, these funds will secure UMMA’s commitment to engaged learning in perpetuity by endowing a key Museum position—the Mellon Manager of Academic Outreach and Teaching. The generosity of the Noels and Benedeks is the most recent manifestation of their deep commitment to both UMMA and the University of Michigan. 

Peter Benedek

“The Noels and Benedek Family Foundation understand how art can completely transform the academic experience, for all Michigan students,” says UMMA Director Joseph Rosa. “Their vision and support, coupled with grants from the Mellon Foundation and NEH, will ensure that UMMA will forever be a national leader in engaged learning.”

In 2014, Irving Stenn, Jr. (BA ’52, JD ’55), linked his dual passions for art and helping students together in the new Irving Stenn, Jr. Curatorial Fellowship, which bolsters UMMA’s efforts to nurture tomorrow’s museum professionals.

"I am delighted to make this gift to the Museum of Art," says Stenn. "Supporting Michigan students is very dear to my heart, as I have had this same interest at the Law School for a number of years. With this fellowship at UMMA, I'm able to combine my passion for art with my desire to help talented students. It's ideal."

A dedicated supporter of UMMA and the U-M Law School, Stenn pledged $750,000, which will provide full tuition support for the fellowship, in perpetuity. The U-M Michigan Matching Initiative for Student Support further extended Irv’s generosity, resulting in an additional $125,000 for the fellowship. 

Helmut and Candis Stern

In 2014, Helmut (LLD, Honorary ’04) and Candis Stern donated $1.5 million to UMMA to share their passion for African art with Museumgoers through the creation of a new curatorial position at UMMA—the Helmut and Candis Stern Associate Curator of African Art. With UMMA’s holdings in African art considered among the finest in North America, this curator joins UMMA’s curatorial posts in Western and Asian art.

"We are thrilled to make this gift to support the Museum,” Candis Stern says. “Art has always been a passion for Helmut, and of all the artifacts and paintings he collected, the African pieces were the ones I most treasured. We are pleased to know our gift will ensure that African art remains an important and lasting collection at UMMA, and that it will expand in the future through the Museum’s excellent exhibitions and programs.”

Endowment Support

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