My father owned a business in downtown
Detroit and supported the auto industry, no surprise there, and he was an
incredibly giving individual. He hired young adults. Some were those coming out of correctional facilities or students that were struggling. His inspiration was
to get people out of poverty, to move them forward, and to get them into a
career path. I think that left a indelible mark in my heart as to, you
know, what I should be able to do if I’m successful someday. My history with
Western Michigan University goes back to 1979 when I started as an undergrad,
graduated in 1983 with a Finance degree. He is the kind of alum that, you know, is
every President’s dream. He has a passion for this university, has a passion for
the students at this university, and a knowledge about how he could connect
those students to opportunities on the outside. I thought I wanted to make a
large gift in some way shape or form and I’ve done scholarships, but that wasn’t
really the ultimate dream. It was to build something inside for personal
financial planning. Something that needed to be greater for the good of the
community as well as for students and with Dr. DeMello’s help in shaping this,
and other faculty members, we came up with the Sanford Center. The idea for
the Sanford Center came about in several discussions I was having with
Todd about the general condition of financial literacy in our community and
and in the nation. There’s a problem in society, as far as I’m concerned, as it
relates to students/young people understanding budgeting. Even if they’re
Fine Arts major or in Engineering, everybody needs to have this skill set. The primary mission is to enhance the financial wellness of the WMU student
community, but the second objective is to grow our personal financial planning
program. The center, I think, fills a need for the
University in terms of attracting more students to the business program as well
as to this career path. They also believe it will give visibility to the
University, which is important, in particular–a field that is growing. Another component of this is to train students to teach one another how to be
good stewards of capital. The peer-to- peer counseling, I think, is really
important and I think students hearing from one another and providing advice is much
better than an adult–it’s two or three generations apart. The center helps train
our students because now they would be providing service under the direction of
certified financial planners–had them in the curriculum and also provide free
advice to students, the community, the elderly, and anyone who needs it. That’s an idea that I’m passionate about as it relates to opening up the Center
for the under-served in our community to get pro bono services as it relates to
personal financial planning and budgeting and provide an opportunity for
those who would normally come through my office to get the assistance that they
need to move ahead in life. From my perspective I need to fund this over a
period of years and to put the endowment in place. Once that occurs, and we get
some support from other entities, which I think is out there, the center hopefully
will continue to grow, expand, and meet the needs of not only students but the
community at large. I think we’re gonna outgrow this Center very quickly in
terms of size and space. It was Todd who came in and said ‘This is something I
want to do’, it fits with his vision of giving back to his educational
institution, which is us (WMU) and also giving back to the community. This is really an exciting opportunity for Western Michigan University, it was
an opportunity to improve the well-being of our students, to help in the community,
and to make a real contribution to society through promoting knowledge and
learning about people’s finances, helping them think about the future,
prepare people for the industry. A perfect match of both practice and
connection on the outside and advancing us inside the campus. I have been blessed
with the ability to give back and take some of my resources and leave a legacy
that will give students and community members, some hope, and hopefully an
opportunity to live a better life long- term financially.