Great Things Newsletter

Planned gifts make a positive impact

In recent years, University of Detroit Mercy has been the recipient of several planned gifts that have helped to enhance the UDM student educational experience by updating classroom facilities and technology, establishing student scholarships and providing a more dynamic campus life for students. The following overviews highlight several donors and the impact their gifts have made to UDM.

Husband-wife physicians remember UDM in their estate plan

Physicians estate planningDr. Thomas Snider, M.D. ’47 lived a full life devoted to medicine and the patients he treated in his private practice in Monroe and at Mercy Memorial Hospital, where he was a former chief of staff and chief of medicine.

After he died on Jan. 30, 2001, his wife, Dr. Irene Sheehan, M.D., lived another 10 years. With the couple’s passing, their estate plan designated funds for UDM. The bequest will help fund scholarships and campus renovations.

“The gifts we are receiving now are from previous development,” says Mark Grzybowski, Gift Planning director. “Student scholarships and campus renovations benefit greatly by the generosity of individuals such as Dr. Snider and his wife, who made plans to give back.”

After graduating from U of D, Snider received his medical degree in 1951 from Loyola University in Maywood, Illinois. He completed a residency in internal medicine at Detroit Receiving Hospital and later served another residency there in thoracic and cardiac medicine. In between his residencies, from 1953 to 1955, he was a medical officer in the U.S. Navy.

It was at Detroit Receiving Hospital that he met his wife. A radiologist, Dr. Irene Sheehan had a practice in Allen Park, Mich. Snider joined the staff at the Veterans Administration Hospital in the same city. He worked there for almost a decade before going into private practice in Monroe in 1970 and serving as a physician leader at Mercy Memorial Hospital. There, he was involved with expanding and enhancing the medical staff as well as the hospital’s physical facilities.

Snider published numerous scientific articles for medical journals on a range of diseases. He also designed a screening test for emphysema.

When the couple retired, they traveled extensively and especially enjoyed visiting Ireland, Sheehan’s homeland.

Enterprising engineer leaves impressive legacy

Engineering Legacy

The Chemistry Building lecture hall was completely renovated in 2011.

James Dirkes ’50 parlayed his education in architectural engineering into an entrepreneurial enterprise that provided climate control to some of the nation’s largest industrial complexes.

His success enabled him to give back to the University that gave him a start. Funds from a bequest were used to help renovate the Chemistry Building and several other campus projects.

After graduating from U of D, Dirkes served in the U.S. Navy. He worked for Fisher Body in Detroit and later in Grand Rapids. He left the automaker to join a roofing and ventilating company in Grand Rapids. After gaining experience and market knowledge, he formed his own sheet metal contracting business in 1961.

As an enterprising engineer, he discovered that large industrial plants and complexes needed an environmentally safe method to provide climate control for their facilities. His company pursued that market by specializing in industrial heating and ventilation, and industrial finishing equipment. As founder and CEO of Rapid Engineering in Comstock Park, he managed the company’s growth and reputation as a leader in the industry. Clients included Ford Motor Company and other large industrial firms in the United States and abroad.

Aside from running a business, he enjoyed golfing and making handy devices in his home workshop for the benefit of his household. He died in 2006 in Naples, Fla., survived by wife Josie, four children, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild. His legacy includes his family, business and the bequest to UDM, which was delivered in 2010.

Stocker estate supports scholarships

Stocker estates

Bill Stocker, Jr. '49

Attending U of D was both a personal and family achievement for each of the four Stocker siblings: Cecilia (Stocker) Worrel ’47, Robert Stocker ’54, Katherine (Stocker) Brady ’50 and Joseph William (Bill) Stocker, Jr. ’49. Their parents wanted them to have a Catholic education.

When Bill Stocker passed away on Dec. 7, 2011, he had designated part of his estate to UDM. As an unrestricted gift, the funds are providing tuition scholarships for UDM students.
Earning a Chemical Engineering degree enabled Stocker to become a metallurgist, working at American Metal Products for 35 years. Lear acquired the company in the 1970s and Stocker retired soon after.

Stocker was an accomplished bowler and enjoying traveling and fishing. He and several family members went on a trip to Alaska in recent years. His love of travel began when he ventured on a three-month bicycle tour of Europe with classmate Ken McHugh after graduating in the summer of 1949. A man of many interests, he also liked growing tomatoes and boating.

His sister Cecilia Worrel says that Stocker, brother-in-law Bob Brady ’49 and Ken McHugh put together a 50th year class reunion in 1999. About 20 Engineering alumni from that year attended the three-day event that included parties, activities and campus tours. In commemoration, Stocker and others made a donation to UDM that was used to renovate a classroom in the Engineering Building.

Thanks to Stocker’s generous estate gift, students today and tomorrow will be able to pursue a Jesuit/Mercy-based education that will serve as a foundation for their careers. It’s a cycle of giving that both alumni and students cherish.

Professor Catherine Caraher estate benefits CLAE

Professor Catherine Caraher

Rendering shows proposed renovated first floor of the Briggs building with new seating and lighting installed.

Professor Catherine Caraher

Professor Catherine Caraher

History Professor Catherine Caraher left an estate gift to UDM that will be used to support scholarships and renovations at the Jane and Walter Briggs Building, where most of the College of Liberal Arts & Education courses are taught.

This summer, the first floor of the Briggs building will be enhanced with counters and seating for students using laptops, a large flat-screen TV, and display areas. In the lower level, a new student lounge will offer a casual setting for students to study or relax with friends.

A larger portion of the estate gift will be used for an endowed scholarship in Caraher’s name. Those funds will also count toward a challenge grant to raise $2 million in scholarships by Dec. 31, 2014 for a 50 percent match ($1 million) from the Mary G. Stange Charitable Trust. Caraher’s gift was structured as a charitable remainder trust, which also provided retirement income.

As an associate professor who joined the staff in 1962, Caraher later served as chairperson of the History Department and as associate dean of the Liberal Arts College.

“She gave her life to the University and to this College,” says Roy Finkenbine, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Education. “She helped a lot of first-generation students through her teaching and advice.”

“She was a formidable woman,” notes Joe Moynihan ’78, ’81. “She enjoyed the banter between student, class and professor. Of all the great teachers at U of D, she was a gem.”
Caraher ’53, ’62 received a bachelor’s degree from U of D and master’s degrees from both U of D and the University of Michigan. She received a doctorate degree in American Culture from
U of M in 1967.

Caraher died July 9, 2012 at age 80. Her obituary in the Traverse City Record-Eagle eloquently stated: “She lived simply but with great generosity; she didn’t spend time building castles but fostering souls.”