The University of Michigan is getting $50 million according to CBS Detroit on March 7. The wife of billionaire real estate mogul Sam Zell is giving the money to the university in order to support their “acclaimed graduate writing program.” The donation is rumored to be the largest donation to ever be given to the writing program.
Sources say the money comes at a much needed time. Helen Zell earned her English degree at the University of Michigan in 1964. She has been supporting the program with smaller gifts. Her small gifts have a combined total of $10 million accumulated over a decade. Zell now lives in Chicago and her apartment bookshelf houses many works from Michigan alumni. There are hundreds of those work; many of which have been featured on the New York Times Bestsellers List, Oprah’s Book Club, and other prestigious writing awards.
During her interview with CBS that with the growth of the internet (media, journalism, blogging) it is important to understand that the need to create fiction still exists.
“The ability of fiction to develop creativity, to analyze the human psyche, help you understand people – its’ critical. It’s as important as vitamins or anything else. To me, it’s the core of the intellectual health of human beings,” Helen states.
Zell feels writers should be able to sit and write at their desks, “not at a Starbucks serving coffee.” University of Michigan is one of the few universities with a generous MFA program. Michigan covers tuition and offers a $22,000 stipend for student while they take their first year classes, according to CBS. In their second year, graduate students will teach and get paid. The college also offers a third year; which is rare in the writing field. Their third year finds the student with health benefits allowing them to focus more on their work.
The $50 million gift will permanently fund the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, according to the University of Michigan News. The goal is to relieve some of the financial burden a program like this can bring. Instead, students can focus on what is most important; their writing.
Interested in joining the writing program at the University of Michigan? For the masters program an average of 22 out of 1,000 applicants is accepted per year. Visit UofM.com for more information.
Want information on the Helen Zell writing program? Visit here.
More articles by Chrystal Mahan.