Donor Impact

Donor support makes a tremendous difference in our ability to support the work of young scholars, provide students, faculty and staff with the financial resources needed to conduct innovative research projects that have the ability to change the world, and to ensure the strength of our data infrastructure for the thousands of annual users now and long into the future. Following are donor stories that will give you a glimpse into the importance of philanthropy at ISR.

Albert & Charlotte Anderson’s Gift of Long Distance Learning

by Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder

Albert Anderson stumbled into the world of computers and technology, which underpinned his life’s work, nearly by accident. As a member of the sociology faculty at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Anderson was first introduced to computer analysis. “The business school got a computer that no one knew how to run, and I happened to have a chance to sit down and play with it, and I found that I had a pretty good aptitude for working with computers,” says Anderson. “It all grew from there; I became a computer nerd.” He went on for postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan (U-M) in mathematical sociology and became familiar with the Population Studies Center (PSC), and was invited to join the research staff in 1972. As a result of his capability with computers, he co-headed the data processing unit at PSC with Mike Coble for 26 years, before retiring in 1996.

During his time at PSC, Anderson, along with colleagues Ren Farley and Lisa Neidert, regularly presented workshops on how to use U.S. Census Bureau data to poverty researchers, journalists and other researchers. “By 1970, the Bureau began to release files of data at the individual level, rather than aggregated files,” says Farley. “This was a tremendous resource, since we could test hypotheses, such as who lived in which neighborhoods and whether the financial pay-offs for investments in education were identical for men and women or for blacks and whites. But most scholars did not have the requisite knowledge of modern computers that would allow them to access and analyze the massive files of data available annually from the Bureau and other federal agencies. Albert knew what was needed. He developed innovative strategies that were highly effective, including his Public Data Queries software for the analysis of these massive data files. It remains the premier such software in existence.”

Anderson says, “We became fairly proficient presenting these workshops over the nearly 12 years we did them. But as time went on, the workshops became nearly cost-prohibitive, as we were bringing people to Ann Arbor and typically spending a week with them. The funding ran out in the early 2000s.” That’s when the idea for a distance-learning option began to emerge. “I became interested in finding a way to present the ideas that we were using in the face-to-face workshops and somehow apply them over the internet to bring people together virtually,” says Anderson. He started to explore the idea, but found it was an idea ahead of its time, and that he didn’t have access to the tools needed to execute a virtual workshop.

Charlotte and Albert Anderson, standing.

Charlotte and Albert Anderson

In the process of this exploration, Anderson and his wife Charlotte began discussing the possibility of philanthropy to support technology, and ultimately virtual workshops. “We decided that we would rather have this happen while we were living so that we could see what would come of our gift, rather than waiting until we were gone,” says Anderson. “We made an initial commitment to the Population Studies Center to support a high-tech conference room that could potentially be the hub for a virtual workshop.” PSC created the special conference room – it is Room 2443 in the ISR building on Thompson Street, the Albert and Charlotte Anderson Conference Room.

The next step for creating a high-tech distance learning center evolved organically when Anderson met with PSC research professor Bill Axinn and learned of the need for such a space in Nepal. Axinn says, “Jeff Morenoff, the PSC Director, brought to my attention the possibility that Al was interested in making a gift to the Center, but it wasn’t clear what kind of work would be most useful. We set up a meeting, and I heard Al explain the kinds of things that he had accomplished with PSC, especially his engagement in methods of teaching people how to use computer analysis of population data to evaluate policy or consider programs or even how businesses might use some of the information. And I thought, wow, we’re in this situation today right now in South Asia where there’s tremendous demand for data to guide public policy, to guide program implementation. We’re creating the data but there are not enough people in those places who are equipped to analyze it and use it for those kinds of purposes. I was really impressed by how Al’s original work in the United States applied to the situation that we’re in right now in South Asia.”

Axinn had first encountered Anderson when he was a student at PSC from 1986-1990 and Anderson was a senior member of the faculty. Patrick Shields, the ISR Director of Development, got them together again. “At that meeting, we talked through some of the ideas and wondered if they would work over the ocean to make contact with a similar facility in Nepal,” says Anderson. “So we ended up using some of the money that Charlotte and I had contributed to PSC to support a similar facility at ISR in Nepal, and that’s where it all started.”

Created in 2015, the Albert and Charlotte Anderson Distance Learning Center (ACADLC) resides within the main building for the Institute for Social and Environmental Research – Nepal (ISER-N). The room features a state-of-the-art video conference technology system using a Polycom server. It remains the most technologically advanced space in Nepal, creating a one-of-kind destination to support research and training, while remaining an economical option, because instructors can teach and engage students virtually. “The academic world already respects ISR in South Asia, but it is stunning how well designed the Distance Learning Center is and what a draw it has become,” says Axinn. ”People are flying in from Pakistan and Bangladesh to take these courses, it’s incredible.”

Students watching their instructors on a monitor.

The Distance Learning Center in use. Courtesy ISER-N.

As ACADLC has evolved, the match between Anderson and the project in Nepal has turned out to be an even better fit than perhaps Axinn or Anderson even initially realized. “Al is more experienced at teaching new users how to use statistical analysis of population data than I am, and he had a bunch of good insight in how to run a distance learning center to accomplish that,” says Axinn. “Al’s ideas are every bit as important as his financial support and we could not have constructed the room or built the facility without him. It was something we wanted to do, and Al knew how to do it.”

One example of this collaboration is the incorporation of Anderson’s over-the-shoulder technique to see how a student is completing their work. For years, Anderson had used the concept in his workshops and understood its value. To add this capability to the ACADLC, cameras were added to the facility in the back and front of the classroom that can zoom in over the shoulder to allow instructors in Ann Arbor to closely observe students in Nepal.

As the team looks ahead, one challenge the center faces is time. Nepal remains 11 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Ann Arbor. That means students in Nepal often take classes before breakfast or after dinner, which translate to usual class times in Michigan. One possible solution is creating a residential program for ACADLC students, which could then more conveniently offer longer hours.

Anderson says that other plans and the future of ACADLC may depend on where Axinn wants to take it next. “I just like sit back and watch it happen,” says Anderson. “I’m past the point of being able to be actively involved, so I intend to continue to financially support it, and we will see how it develops and where it goes. Much of it will depend on Bill and his ideas. We are very much in accord with what he hopes to do, and we agree completely on how we would like to see this develop.”

Axinn has lots of plans for ACADLC. He first sees an expansion of the frequency and variety of content of courses that are currently offered. “There’s no doubt that the demand for a basic ‘how do you analyze data’ course is high, but we’d like to offer it more often,” says Axinn. “And also to expand content to other topics that are related to the use and creation of data. My colleague, Dirgha Ghimire, traveled there in May 2018 to review curriculum and offerings of the Center. Our long-term goal is that every week there’s something going on in the ACADLC.”

Other long-term goals include using the facility to train local government statisticians and field teams in how to create a computer-assisted-interview survey and how to execute a panel study and use various tools to implement that kind of data collection. There’s also interest in expanding the number of rooms to include some locations in India and possibility replicating the ACADLC. “My version of the future would involve not only the use of the Anderson Center in Nepal but a family of centers sprinkled around South Asia,” says Axinn.

“As a kid, I was lucky enough to get to live in Nepal for a couple of years, and it had a huge effect on me,” says Axinn. “I knew I wanted a big part of my career to be about Nepal, and I wanted to do something to give back to the people of Nepal for all that they have given me. So I’m very personally grateful to Al for the financial support and the ideas to make this happen. I think it’s very important for social research in South Asia, and certainly a very important gift to the people of Nepal.”


The Polish connection: Eugene Burnstein secures a link

by Susan Rosegrant

Eugene Burnstein’s parents were born in the once fluid border region of Poland and Ukraine. Although Burnstein, a social psychologist and senior research scientist emeritus at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR), grew up in Philadelphia speaking only English, he heard Russian, when his parents didn’t want him to understand what they were saying, and, much more often, Yiddish, especially when his grandparents were present. Still, except for family left behind, there was little nostalgia for the old country.

But a connection seemed determined to out. When Burnstein, fresh from the University of Pennsylvania, came to the University of Michigan (U-M) in 1954 to pursue a Ph.D., he soon ran into Robert Zajonc, a Polish-born social psychologist who was just completing his dissertation. Zajonc stayed on at U-M as a faculty member, and he took Burnstein on as his first doctoral student. Over the years, he continued to serve as a mentor.

“He was my first real connection with Poland,” Burnstein says, with a chuckle. Zajonc corrected his pronunciation of Polish words. And he corrected some cultural assumptions, as well. “When I asked him for the Polish word for ‘peanut brittle,’ he said there was no word in Polish for peanut brittle,” Burnstein says. “And to make the point, he asked me, ‘What is the English word for pirogi?’”

Burnstein joined the U-M faculty in 1964, teaching in the psychology department and doing research at ISR’s Research Center for Group Dynamics (RCGD). His work—for example, analyzing the polarization of opinions in groups—dovetailed well with that of Zajonc. So when Zajonc was unable to make it to an international psychology meeting in Warsaw in 1991, held soon after Poland voted in its first popularly elected president, Burnstein went instead.

The meeting celebrated the establishment of the University of Warsaw’s Institute for Social Studies (ISS), a research unit with close ties to ISR. Burnstein had become friends with a few Polish students when teaching in France a few years earlier, and these former students were now on faculty at the university.

Burnstein liked the feeling of Poland and he liked the people he got to know there; the connection took. About six years later, ISS started a summer school, and Burnstein began going almost every year to teach, often accompanied by his wife, Martha. “Contrary to stereotypes about Polish cuisine, she liked the food,” Burnstein says, especially a soup called zurek, a sour rye soup cooked with meat. Burnstein officially retired in 2002, but he kept teaching at ISS.

As his ties there strengthened, Burnstein began encouraging Polish students to come to ISR. “It’s really important for them to get a chance to study outside of Poland,” he says. Most years Burnstein scraped together enough money for one or two Polish students to come over, with the support of ISR Director James Jackson, the director of RCGD, and a few colleagues. But the annual scramble for funds and the unpredictability of the opportunity struck him as problematic. “It’s not formal and there’s always a struggle—do we have enough money?”

So Burnstein and his wife decided to change that. This summer, 50 years after Burnstein started teaching at U-M, the Eugene and Martha Burnstein University of Warsaw Social Science Scholars Exchange Fund will bring a Polish student to Michigan to study at one of ISR’s two summer programs. Burnstein hopes the fund will “stabilize and institutionalize” the relationship between the two schools. In the future, it may be possible to bring two students over each year with fund support.

Creating the fund just felt right to Burnstein and his wife. The international exchange is good for both sides, he says. Besides, “I like the idea of it. I have some affection for that part of the world.”


Philip Converse: Understanding the American Voter

by Susan Rosegrant

[Profile updated in April 2013]

Jobs. Government corruption. Health care. Terrorism.

Polls have shown these to be among the hot button issues for voters in the upcoming presidential election. But if the theories put forth more than 50 years ago by Philip Converse still hold true, many voters don’t have consistent opinions about these burning issues of the day. Nor do they vote based on a coherent ideology.

Converse, now 83, was a young research scientist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) back in 1960 when he collaborated with fellow ISR researchers Angus Campbell, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes to write The American Voter, a groundbreaking book that reshaped the world’s understanding of political behavior. Among the central—and controversial—themes of the book was the assertion that most voters were remarkably unsophisticated in their thinking.

Converse developed that argument further in his 1964 article, “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics.” Drawing on surveys conducted during the 1950s, Converse concluded that less than four percent of the voting public had a well-formed political belief system and the ability to think abstractly. The rest of the pack based their decisions on how they felt a particular party treated different groups; on whether they associated a party with a particular good or bad event, such as a war or a recession; or on “no shred of policy significance whatever.” Converse put that last group at 17.5 percent.

Many political scientists, including Converse, would argue that the voting public has become somewhat more sophisticated in the five decades since he wrote his article; Converse credits a more educated populace and the easy availability of information for that improvement. But the ideas from his legendary article are still discussed today. In fact, ISR’s Center for Political Studies (CPS) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the article at two events—the annual Miller-Converse lecture in April 2013, and a conference one year later. The events will also feature the seminal article by colleagues Miller and Stokes, “Constituency Influence in Congress,” examining the degree of control that voters have over the congressmen they choose to represent them.

And CPS is making sure that the ideas and energy of these two scholars lives on in other ways. With early financial support from Converse, the Center recently created the Philip Converse and Warren Miller Fellowship in American Political Behavior, to be given annually to a U-M graduate student and his or her faculty mentor to pursue research on elections, public opinion, or representation. The first Converse Miller fellowship was awarded in April at the Miller-Converse lecture to John Jackson, professor of political science, and Elizabeth Mann, a Ph.D. student in political science, who will be using the award to study American political behavior.

Contributing to a student fellowship was a natural move for Converse, given his formative experiences as a student and young academic at ISR in the 1950s and ‘60s. Before coming to Michigan, he earned a master’s degree in English literature, and did research for a Shakespearean scholar; he liked the details, but was convinced there was more significant research to be done in the social sciences. Then, as a graduate student at U-M, he discovered ISR. “I managed to infiltrate the place by hook or by crook, and that’s where it all started,” Converse recalled in a 1997 interview. “I was absolutely thrilled off my feet by this marvelous new tool of survey research which could give one snapshots of what was going on in the minds and behaviors of the American public.”

Converse went on to head CPS in 1982, and he became the fourth director of ISR in 1986. He left that position in 1989 to become director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. But after retiring from Stanford in 1994, he moved back to Michigan, where as a professor emeritus of sociology and political science he has continued his close association with the Institute. The Fellowship, he says, should help students continue to make breakthroughs in understanding American voting behavior.

More than fifty years have passed since Converse came to U-M as a student, but the intensity of his early years at ISR still resonates. “I felt like a kid in a candy shop,” Converse said. “I felt I had come to exactly the right place at exactly the right time.”

The Philip Converse and Warren Miller Fellowship in American Political Behavior
The Warren Miller and Philip Converse Lecture Series in American Politics


Passing Down Passion: Maria Mercedes Florez

Maria Mercedes Florez

Maria Mercedes Florez

Maria Mercedes Florez was living in Cuba when her husband was killed in a car accident, leaving her behind with two young children. The country had just witnessed the end of the Cuban Revolution, which placed Fidel Castro at the helm, and Mercedes Florez knew she had to get out. With one small suitcase and $50, she embarked on a journey that, thanks to two generations of powerful women, will now be immortalized in the field of Alzheimer’s Disease research.

In the Summer of 2019, Cecilia Votta, a PhD student in the University of Michigan’s clinical psychology program, and her mother, Maria Martinez, came together to celebrate the woman who made their successes possible. After a life of hard work, bravery, and kindness, Mercedes Florez, beloved grandmother to Votta and mother to Martinez, passed away this year after a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. In her honor, Votta and Martinez decided to make a gift to the Michigan Center for Contextual Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease (MCCFAD) at the U-M Institute for Social Research to establish the Mercedes Florez Memorial Research Fund.

This gift to MCCFAD will provide funding for research on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias, with a specific focus on serving the Latinx community. Votta was inspired to initiate this gift as a result of her work with members of the MCCFAD team. She says that when her family first began to struggle with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, she reached out to Laura Zahodne, one of the center’s co-directors, to obtain resources. With help from MCCFAD, Votta was able to normalize the experiences of aging and dementia, and to lead her family through necessary, albeit difficult, end-of-life conversations. She recognizes that access to this kind of aging support is not a privilege shared by all, and hopes that her gift will ultimately help others to navigate these situations, as MCCFAD helped her.

MCCFAD is a collaborative effort between the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and Eastern Michigan University, located on the campuses of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. MCCFAD is coordinated by the Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research and is funded by the National Institute on Aging. MCCFAD aims to foster and enhance innovative research in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias with long term goals to advance relevant social and behavioral science research in underserved and underrepresented communities. MCCFAD also aims to diversify the research workforce dedicated to healthy aging.


Robert Marans: Architect, Social Scientist, Planner…and Donor

by Susan Rosegrant

They say that eyes are the window to the soul. For Bob Marans, his office at the Institute for Social Research (ISR) is a window—if not to his soul—then at least to his heart and mind.

Photos cover a portion of one wall, capturing scenes from Iran, Qatar, China, Turkey, Germany—countries he visited in the last decade for conferences or to do research, and where he kept his camera ready. There’s a brightly decorated can of Chinese tea, a metal platter from India stamped with a peacock, an Asian doll—all gifts from former students. Books are stacked and leaning at crazy angles on shelves, desks, sills…really any available surface; books on architecture, urban planning, quality of life, survey methodology, sustainability. The books, perhaps more than anything else, indicate the breadth of Marans’s interests and work. “Some people think of me as an architect, some people think of me as a social scientist, some people think of me as a planner,” Marans says with a laugh. “I’m all of the above.”

Marans, professor emeritus of architecture and urban planning in U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning and research professor at ISR, first came to U-M as an undergraduate in 1952, earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture. After receiving a master’s degree in urban planning and an architect’s license, he worked for a number of years before returning to Michigan to pursue a Ph.D. He earned his doctorate in 1971 and never left. Over the last 40 years, Marans has become known in particular for his research into different aspects of the built and natural environments and how those environments affect behavior and quality of life. The Environmental Design Research Association in June awarded Marans its 2012 Career Award.

For a scholar who has stressed the importance, even the necessity, of crossing intellectual boundaries, it’s no surprise that Marans continues to do wide ranging and interdisciplinary work. He makes frequent trips to Chengdu, China, where he is talking with faculty at Sichuan University about incorporating social science training into their environmental curriculum. He is collaborating with colleagues in architecture and at the School of Public Health to look at how environmental features of Detroit’s neighborhoods—including land uses, street patterns, and recreational facilities—may affect physical activity and health.

Some people think of me as an architect, some people think of me as a social scientist, some people think of me as a planner,” Marans says with a laugh. “I’m all of the above.”

And Marans has kept that interdisciplinary focus in mind as he has thought about ways that he and his wife Judy can contribute something more to the university and ISR. Last year, he and retired faculty member Kan Chen, formerly a professor of electrical engineering at U-M’s College of Engineering, decided to join forces. Chen and Marans had become close colleagues years ago when they served consecutively as the directors of an interdisciplinary doctoral program at U-M in urban, technological, and environmental planning. Now they decided to create a fellowship that would carry on that kind of interdisciplinary approach by supporting a graduate student who wanted to apply social science methods to the broader issue of sustainability. “The students who receive it would have the ability to do the kind of research that I’ve been doing, which I believe is important,” Marans says, “looking at links between the environment and issues of sustainability, on the one hand, and people’s behavior, on the other.”

The Robert and Judy Marans/Kan and Lillian Chen Fellowship in Sustainability and Survey Methodology awarded its first fellowship this spring to Sarah Mills, a doctoral student in urban and regional planning. The fellowship, administered by ISR and the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, covers tuition for Mills to earn a Certificate in Survey Methodology from ISR. Mills plans to apply those survey methods in her doctoral research into what rural communities can do to curb urban sprawl and foster sustainable development in the Midwest. Mills, Marans says, is just the kind of student he had in mind when he and Chen created the fellowship. “She has engineering training, she’s getting her doctorate in planning, and she’s quantitative in her background,” he says.

For members of the university community interested in creating their own award or fellowship, Marans says it wasn’t hard; he and Chen worked with Patrick Shields, ISR’s director of development, and pulled it together in a matter of a few months. “Just have a vision for what you want to do and why you want to do it,” he says. “It’s part of giving back.” His eyes skim over the books, objects, and photos that surround him. “ISR and U-M have been good to me,” he says. “This has in many ways been my home.”

Bob’s CV (PDF)


Closing the Circle: ISR Founder’s Daughter Finds an Unusual Way to Give

Patricia Likert Pohlman has always been proud of her parents and her legacy. Sometimes that required speaking up.In the process of getting her Ph.D. in psychology from Ohio State and practicing as a counseling psychologist, it wasn’t unusual to hear friends and colleagues refer to the Likert Scale, a commonly used system for tabulating questionnaire responses based on a “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” rating scale.

Usually, though, the speaker pronounced the first syllable of Likert to rhyme with “bike.” It was Pohlman’s job to gently but insistently explain that the proper pronunciation was “lick.” You see, she’d say if the person protested, the scale was created by and named after my father.

As the daughter of ISR founder Rensis Likert and Jane Gibson Likert, a founder of U-M’s Center for the Education of Women, Pohlman knew her way around ISR and the university. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science at U-M, and stayed in close contact with the Ann Arbor community after moving to Ohio.

Over the years, Pohlman has made several gifts to the Rensis Likert Fund in Research in Survey Methodology, which supports dissertation research on cutting edge topics in survey methodology and travel for Ph.D. students in the Program in Survey Methodology.

But as she turned 80, Pohlman wanted to find a new way to give to the fund. The answer: She donated her interest in the ongoing royalties from a spatial reasoning test developed by her father that continues to be used by prospective engineering students, and from several publications written by her father and by her parents together—books like New Patterns of Management, published in 1961, and New Ways of Managing Conflict, published in 1976.

“Mom’s really excited about it,” says son Bill Pohlman, who is facilitating the process. It’s a particular pleasure, he says, for her to see Likert’s ideas still contributing some 65 years after ISR’s founding. “This sense of completing the circle is really what’s meaningful. Through the people who are still interested in Rennie’s work, the Institute—which, of course, meant a lot to him—is going to benefit.”


Pickin’ and Givin’: The retirement of pollster Garth Taylor

by Susan Rosegrant

When Garth Taylor retired in 2010 from running a polling company in Chicago, he wanted to live life right. So, he explains, he devoted about a year to what Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir once called a vision quest. “I describe it as getting rid of everything I didn’t want to do and then finding out what was left,” Taylor says.

The 64-year-old former pollster, who has expressive eyebrows, an often mischievous expression, and an explosive laugh, peeled away the things he didn’t want. And what was left was music. “I recorded an album,” he says. “And then I got the idea of starting a music school.”

Taylor did that, forming the School of American Music in the small Southwestern Michigan town of Three Oaks, near where he and his wife and son had kept a cottage for years, and where they now lived year-round.

The school gave Taylor plenty to do. But in addition to giving back to this small community through the school, Taylor wanted to give back to his chosen field. “I had gotten the idea of supporting dissertation research at places that are pinnacles of the public opinion profession,” he says.

Taylor began checking out future opportunities to support research at Berkeley and at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR). To his dismay, he discovered that the Survey Research Center at Berkeley had recently closed, a victim of California budget cuts. “To me that was a real wakeup call,” Taylor says. “Public education is under attack. That made me think I shouldn’t wait on this.”

In November 2013, Taylor established the Garth Taylor Dissertation Fellowship in Public Opinion Research at ISR. He did this even though he had never worked at or been a student at the institute. “We have benefited from a professional field, and if we truly believe in that field, we should support its continuation,” he says.

Taylor’s combination of statistics, guitar licks, and philanthropy came naturally. As a kid growing up in Minneapolis, he kept elaborate lists of baseball statistics. He traded his trumpet in for a guitar when he was in 9th grade, so he could learn the songs of an emerging band known as the Beatles. And as a member of the debate club in high school, he championed liberal causes.

After graduating from Berkeley, the one school his high school counselor told him not to consider (“creeping Communism”), Taylor spent a year back in Minneapolis playing guitar for a feminist theater company. Then, inspired by a social psychology class at Berkeley in which he’d done a rudimentary before and after attitude change survey, he went to the University of Chicago to get a PhD in sociology. “I wanted to learn how to be a pollster.”

Taylor studied statistics and methodology, gained the computer skills he needed, and, most important, dug into the riches of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), delving into data sets such as the Michigan Election Studies, whose roots at ISR go back to 1948. “I used to just sit there and read the code books, because it was so interesting to see what people’s answers were to these questions,” Taylor recalls. “I thought it was so mind-blowingly informative that I absolutely fell in love with it.”

After writing his dissertation on trends in American public opinion, Taylor taught both at the University of Wisconsin and at Chicago. But his loyalties were split. Though he enjoyed teaching, a part of him wanted to be outside the university working as a pollster—the ambition that drove him to NORC in the first place. When a position opened up for a director of research and planning at the Chicago Urban League, he took that. And four years later, when local foundations put together seed funding to create an organization that would do surveys of the Chicago Metro region and provide reports on policy relevant issues, Taylor jumped on it.

We have benefited from a professional field, and if we truly believe in that field, we should support its continuation.”

For the next 20 years, Taylor was executive director of the Metro Chicago Information Center, doing public opinion surveys and quality of life measures. Often, Taylor says, the work required a degree of improvisation that isn’t taught in schools. “Having done a very detailed reading of [ISR founder] Leslie Kish’s book on survey sampling probably gave us the single most important skill set that we had in our organization,” he says.

During those years, Taylor and his family would retreat on weekends to Berrien County, Mich., where he played in a jug band, taught guitar, and hung out with other musicians. So starting a music school in retirement wasn’t too much of a stretch. The school now has a dozen teachers, most of them volunteers, and about 50 students studying guitar, violin, banjo, mandolin, and other instruments.

And when he’s not teaching or playing music, Taylor looks forward to meeting the student who will receive the first Garth Taylor fellowship in the spring. “Public opinion was always the most interesting to me,” he says. “I just felt like I was reading the Book of Revelation when I was reading survey code books. Someone else is going to have that same experience.”

Watch Garth Taylor play guitar music:

The Garth Taylor Dissertation Fellowship in Public Opinion


They are the People who Know What is Truly Important in our Society

by Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder

Marshall Weinberg

Marshall Weinberg

Marshall Weinberg

University of Michigan (U-M) donor and alumnus Marshall Weinberg has never kept a CV. If he did, you would note that Weinberg graduated from U-M with a B.A. in philosophy in 1950. Then, after studying at both Harvard and Columbia’s Graduate School of Business, he enjoyed 34 years as a successful investment broker at Herzfeld & Stern in New York. You would probably also notice the unbelievably impressive amount of volunteer work that he has been involved in throughout his lifetime.

Currently, the 89-year-old retiree is actively involved in about seven charities. “I’m especially concerned with reproductive rights, global warming and international rights,” he says. Weinberg is also very active with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). He is the longest-serving member, having been on their executive committee for 48 years. His time with the non-profit relief organization afforded him some unique and emotionally gripping opportunities to travel and offer assistance to countless Jewish people in crisis all across the world during the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

Here, Weinberg’s current philanthropic contributions to U-M are also remarkably vast and impressive. So much so that he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree four years ago. He’s set up several very notable charitable projects across the university, among them three endowments for the Institute for Social Research Population Studies Center. Weinberg’s generosity to the university saw him in the spotlight in 2008 when he was honored with the David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership. “There were about a thousand people there when I awarded,” he recalls. “It was no small deal, and I was really moved.”

Weinberg reveals another emotional moment connected to the university. It was several years ago when he first met the Institute of Social Research’s Albert Hermalin, who is now a Research Professor Emeritus. “It was a very brief meeting with Hermalin that convinced me to put money into U-M,” Weinberg says. He connects the dots first by describing himself as being “very meticulous” when it comes to deciding where he will donate his money. Weinberg does a lot of research beforehand and always consults with experts to help him make his decisions. He goes on to explain that a number of years ago he and the now-deceased Sheldon Segal (inventor of the Norplant contraceptive) were on the board of directors for the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) together. They had a conversation about Weinberg’s concern about overpopulation. Segal told Weinberg about Hermalin and stated that one of the most important research centers for population studies was at U-M.

Shortly thereafter, Weinberg (who is still on the CRR board of directors as an honorary trustee) attended one of Hermalin’s talks. Weinberg later asked to meet with him. “I was so impressed with him and his work. He told me he was putting up his own money to help establish prizes for students,” Weinberg says. “I thought, my God, if this man, a professor of modest means and who is so outstanding, is putting up his own money, then this must be really important.” It was this realization that eventually led him to create the Marshall Weinberg Endowment Fund, the Marshall Weinberg International Travel Fund, and the Marshall Weinberg Research Fellowship.

“I thought, my God, if this man, a professor of modest means and who is so outstanding, is putting up his own money, then this must be really important.”

When asked what motivates his altruism generally, Weinberg, the youngest of three children, proudly points to the way he was raised. “When I was 13, I saw my father sitting awake at his desk past midnight with the lights on,” he says. “When I asked him what was wrong, my father asked me why I was even asking such a question. He said he was up writing cheques because it was Passover holiday, and we had family who couldn’t afford food for their Seders.” Weinberg, (who shares that his father was, by far, not a wealthy man and that his mother was the daughter of the illustrious Zionist orator Zvi Hirsch Masliansky) recounts another telling example that transpired during the Depression-era: “I remember once overhearing my father telling my mother that the United Jewish Appeal wrote that Israel was in very desperate need, and that they asked if our family could increase their contribution. My father told her, sadly, that he didn’t know how we could manage to donate more money than we had already been giving. He said we were already stretched. Without hesitation my mother provided the solution. She said that we would just simply have to stop taking family vacations.”

According to Weinberg, his father grew to hate money and wrote a long letter about the matter. “Essentially, my father said that after we, his children, took care of our own personal needs, we should give the rest of our money away to charities,” Weinberg says. He adds that a famous friend, the world-renowned value investor Warren Buffett was extremely interested in the letter. In fact, Buffett asked for a copy of the letter so that he could show it to his own children. Weinberg and Buffett are both former students of Benjamin Graham, a man widely acclaimed as “the father of value investing.” In a video tribute that honors his former professor, Weinberg says that Graham did something that hooked him instantaneously. Graham quoted 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza. For Weinberg, a philosophy major, that set the tone for how he viewed value investing. “Graham said that if you want to make money on Wall Street you needed the proper psychological attitude. And no one expresses it better than Spinoza, the philosopher, who said that you must look at things through the aspect of eternity,” Weinberg recalls. Weinberg explains that to him this means “that one must hold steady over time when it comes to value investing. Don’t just think only of the ups and downs.”

But Spinoza’s quote also holds an additional meaning for Weinberg. Not only does he apply it to investing money, but also towards investing in something more important – people. It is also about how his work and how his contributions towards other people’s lives will continue infinitely. “Someone once said that when you help a professor or someone who will go on to teach people, your reach continues and who knows where it will end,” Weinberg says. “Their students will pass on the information to their own students in the future and so on. It’s eternal and profound.”

“Someone once said that when you help a professor or someone who will go on to teach people, your reach continues and who knows where it will end,” Weinberg says. “Their students will pass on the information to their own students in the future and so on. It’s eternal and profound.”

It was brought to Weinberg’s consciousness just how profound he has been when, several years ago, the Institute of Social Research (ISR) created a book called The Weinberg Effect (Weinberg Effect is usually defined as the total number of students taught by former award-winners, but can refer to research efforts as well). When the book came out, Weinberg had helped 60 students with awards; the latest estimates puts the number of people that these beneficiaries, in turn, went on to affect at approximately 1,000. The recipients of endowments created by Weinberg were asked to write about how many students they teach and how many researchers they have passed on their knowledge to. The result is a document that is a concise, and oftentimes touching, chronicling of how Weinberg’s generosity has made some remarkable differences in students’ studies and careers. “I couldn’t believe how many people were contacted and took the time to respond,” says Weinberg. “These people are all over the world, in various positions, making big impacts in society.”

Jessica Gillooly, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and public policy and a 2017 winner of the Marshall Weinberg Research Fellowship, was happy to be included in The Weinberg Effect. Gillooly is still in the early stages of writing her dissertation. But it’s intended to “reconceptualize the problems facing law enforcement by focusing attention to the first point of contact between citizens and the criminal justice system – calls to 911 operators,” she says.

Jessica Gillooly

Jessica Gillooly, photo by Michigan Photography

Gillooly explains that prior scholarship thoroughly documents the exercise of discretion by police officers, but has yet to examine discretion among 911 operators. In an article she wrote for The Washington Post, she stresses that it’s time for conversations about policing to include the role of dispatchers. Gillooly’s dissertation research is based on field notes taken while working as a trained 911 call-taker for 26 months in Southeast Michigan, audio recordings of approximately 225 calls to the police, call-for-service administration records, and arrest records. “Using quantitative and qualitative methods, I find that call-driven policing dominates police work at my field site,” she says. She adds, “like other reactive systems of law, effective gatekeepers are required to redirect inappropriate requests and allocate limited resources.”

The Weinberg Award afforded Gillooly a sense of hope that her dissertation idea would become a reality. “I remember chatting with a professor a few years ago when I first started envisioning a research project about 911. She was very supportive, but warned me of the challenges associated with choosing a field site where very little data had been previously collected or analyzed,” Gillooly reveals. “When I won the Award, I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of data collection tasks facing me. The Endowment provided me with the necessary assistance I needed to get my project off the ground,” she says.

Gillooly has used the funding to support a number of research tasks related to her dissertation, including: hiring a transcriptionist to convert 225 audio recordings of calls to the police into text documents for analysis, meeting with a statistician from the Consulting for Statistics, Computing and Analytics Research Center to prepare administrative data sets she gathered for analysis (including arrest data and call for service data), purchasing a statistical software program to facilitate analyses, and consulting over the summer to help her stick to her dissertation writing schedule.

Overall, Weinberg’s assistance gave Gillooly a bit of needed breathing room. “During my times in the Ph.D. program, I’ve had moments of doubt about whether pursuing this degree was the right path,” Gillooly admits. She stresses, however, that her passion to address social injustices and understand issues of race, class, and inequality in a nuanced way continues to surpass her own financial motivations. “I am extremely grateful not only for Marshall Weinberg’s support of my own research, Gillooly says, “but for his support of so many graduate students at University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center who are tackling important research questions.”

Undoubtedly, Gillooly’s positive attitude is one that Weinberg can respect. “Jessica – and the other students I’ve assisted – can’t even begin to imagine just how proud I am of them. They are doing very important work,” he says. “There are just too many people who simply don’t give a damn about anything, and when I see them with their diamonds and furs it disgusts me. They don’t give to anything really meaningful,” he adds. He is firm in his belief that money should never be a motivating factor when it comes to choosing a career path. “My Award recipients may not be earning the highest salaries at this time, but they should take great pride in the good that they are doing,” he says. “They are the people who know what is truly important in our society.”

Weinberg Award Programs

Population, Development, and Climate Change Fellows Program

Marshall Weinberg Endowment in the Population Studies Center

The Weinberg Effect Testimonials

Nell Compernolle


Do It To Make A Difference

by Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder

Bill Zimmerman firmly believes that if you choose to be charitable, do so for no other reason than to be kind. “Do it to make a difference, not as a way of tooting your own horn,” says the Research Professor Emeritus at the Center for Political Studies at the Institute of Social Research. It was in this spirit that he created the Ryan Jr. Faculty Fund. The award was initially named for Zimmerman’s mother, Isabel Ryan Zimmerman. “I wanted to honor the simplicity at the core of her Quakerism and the marginally Quaker environment that I grew up in,” he says.

Bill Zimmerman, photo by Eva Menezes/ISR

In 2013, he agreed to change the name to the Zimmerman Jr. Faculty Fund, in honor of his 50th anniversary with the University of Michigan (U-M). But the purpose of the Fellowship remained the same. “It’s intended,” Zimmerman explains, “to provide some discretionary funds for my successors as Directors of the Center for Political Studies in their efforts to recruit and retain outstanding junior faculty.” During his own time as director of the Center for Political Studies (CPS) Zimmerman found that staff retention could be challenging. “We only hire smart faculty, and people at other universities would notice that,” he says.

Humbly, Zimmerman describes the Fellowship as “fairly small potatoes, but still a very helpful thing for the center’s directorship.” And as for the chosen faculty member, the Fund gives them some relief time to further any scholarship that they need to accomplish. “It could, for example, help someone transform their dissertation into a first book or do something similar,” says Zimmerman. Current CPS Director Ken Kollman affirms that the Fund has indeed had a big and incredibly positive impact on the establishment. “It’s perfectly targeted to where great research institutions need the most help and where it is challenging to find other sources,” he says. He adds, “the Zimmerman Fund has been, and will continue to be, a terrific asset for the Institute for Social Research and CPS to attract and retain early-career researchers in the social sciences.”

Zimmerman himself is able to relate on a personal level to the tangible consequences that funds like his can have on junior faculty members. “I did receive similar help, mostly in the way of relief time and summer salaries. It was just really nice and extremely helpful to my career,” he recalls. George Breslauer, a friend and former student of Zimmerman, can also empathize from firsthand experience. “I was given such funds in my untenured years and was deliriously happy when I got the telephone call,” says the Professor of the Graduate School, Department of Political Science, and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Emeritus, University of California at Berkeley. Breslauer, who earned his Ph.D. in political science in 1973 from the University of Michigan (U-M), took both undergrad and grad courses with Zimmerman. It was also Zimmerman who supervised his doctoral dissertation. “We remained close for life, even though our paths crossed infrequently,” says Breslauer. He describes his former teacher as always stimulating and encouraging. Motivated by immense respect and how supportive Zimmerman had been of him, Breslauer along with Allan Stam, Dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, worked together to solicit help from Zimmerman’s former students in order to top off the Fellowship.

Those who responded to the appeal generally expressed their deep appreciation of, and affection for, Zimmerman, Breslauer happily reports. “Personally, I was delighted to have the means as well as the opportunity to contribute to a Fund in his name,” he says. And Breslauer could unreservedly champion the purpose of the Fund (which provides one-ninth of the recipient’s academic year salary) as he appreciates the multiple benefits. “From an institutional standpoint, such gestures can deepen loyalty to the university and may lower the temptation for junior faculty to seek higher salaries elsewhere.” He continues, “relative to the cost of living, the salaries of junior (untenured) faculty tend to be modest. So this helps by affording them some financial breathing room.”

Chris Fariss

Chris Fariss

This year, it was Assistant Professor Chris Fariss, 36, who received the Fellowship. Fariss finished his Ph.D. in 2013 at the University of California, San Diego. He’s worked at U-M for two years now in the Department of Political Science and his core research interest lies in human rights. “I am very happy with all of the fantastic support and funding provided to faculty at U-M. The CPS has been the best part of my job at U-M. They make a lot of my research possible,” he says. Specifically, Fariss focuses on the politics and measurement of human rights. His interest in this area began in 2003 during a summer course at the University of North Texas called Peace Studies. He discloses that the process of discovery is what “drives” him presently. “More often now though it is teaching my students about this process,” he says.

Fariss is also moved by the many positive human rights developments happening in the world. “But these are less publicized relative to places where conflict and human rights abuse are occurring,” he explains. “My research has helped to reveal this,” he adds. That said, alongside access to reliable and valid data, Fariss confides that he has to deal with another big obstacle. “One of my biggest challenges is how to convince the political science community to take measurement seriously,” he says.

While Fariss may face certain hurdles in the political science arena, at home in the CPS he certainly isn’t lacking believers, Zimmerman being one of them. He stresses that the Fund recognizes early promise. “I’m only now starting to get to know Chris, but he’s quite smart and a great addition to our faculty. His work and research is very important,” he says. This is meaningful recognition and the respect is mutual. “Bill’s office is just down the hall from me,” Fariss says. He adds, “I think that he works harder than I do. It’s good inspiration.”