There is an incredible world out there ready to be explored and experienced for the college student willing and eager to find it. And nothing should stand in their way.
That is the genesis for the Stephen I., ’74, and Susan Brochu Greenhalgh, ’75, Endowed Student Experience Fund, a $250,000 gift that supports travel costs for students with financial need who wish to participate in faculty-sponsored academic trips.
“The stigma that attaches to students who can’t go because of financial issues, that bothered me,” said Greenhalgh, a Pontiac native who earned his bachelor's degrees at Albion in anthropology and sociology, then earned his law degree from Washington & Lee University in Virginia in 1977. “Other students would come back to class and talk about their experiences and there were students who couldn’t go. I thought the stigma was very unfortunate.”
The gift is intended for travel only when a faculty member is present and purely for academic purposes. It should benefit multiple students each year.
Now retired and living in Boulder, Colo., after a career with the Bodman Law Firm in Detroit (where he was a corporate attorney for the Detroit Lions among other clients), Greenhalgh was first intrigued by the idea of helping deserving students on faculty-sponsored travel several years ago after talking with Albion Religious Studies Professor Jocelyn McWhirter, who for years has sponsored the biennial Holocaust Studies Service-Learning Project trip to Poland.
But there were other faculty-student events as well, including First-Year Seminar trips and the yearly excursion for the Center for Sustainability and the Environment, Greenhalgh noted.
“There were students who were missing out,” he said.
When McWhirter learned what the Greenhalghs were working on to help these students, she was pleased.
“It broadens their horizons,” she said. “I think these trips take students into an unfamiliar world. And when they enter an unfamiliar world, whether it’s in the U.S. or a destination outside the U.S, I think it gives them a new perspective on the world. It fosters skills of adjusting to another culture, adjusting to how to move within another culture, even learning a strange language. I think in the case of my trip, and other trips, it introduces students to new people and new history.”
And that’s exactly what the Greenhalghs, married for 37 years (Susan's Albion degree is in psychology), were hoping for with this fund.
“This does two things,” said Greenhalgh, who has also served for 11 years as a member of the College's Board of Trustees. “It helps the faculty and it provides more immediate opportunities for students from less affluent families. And I hope it provides life experiences by going to places like Europe and Africa for students who otherwise might not have that opportunity. It all falls under the rubric of experiential learning, and I believe that experiential learning can make all the difference in a liberal arts education.”
And not only will the new gift sustain current travel projects, it could lead to opportunities for more trips to different areas for more students.
“It’s great for students who don’t have the money,” McWhirter said. “These trips are an experience that can’t be had by staying where you are.”