Paying it Forward
Before John Jackson came to U-M, he was an associate professor at both Harvard and The University of Pennsylvania. But it was at Michigan that he felt something truly special.
"I saw almost immediately how important a great public university is to its students and the community," Jackson says. "It is really the equalizing part of our society."
John's wife Gretchen began a new career in fundraising when the couple moved to Ann Arbor. She, too, was inspired by U-M. It is because of the Jacksons' successful careers and the connections they have made that they have decided to give back to the university that they love.
Gretchen recently established the Gretchen Neal Jackson Scholarship Fund at the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (SMTD). The scholarship will support students in SMTD to ensure that they have access to the best opportunities regardless of their financial situations.
"I have always been blessed to have sufficient funds to pursue the lifestyle and opportunities I wanted to pursue," says Gretchen. "I appreciate the chance to help others do the same."
Gretchen's experience in development led her to encourage John to give back, too. She advised John to find what truly inspired him, which turned out to be fellow faculty and students in the Department of Political Science.
"The environment at Michigan is barrier free," says Jackson. "If you have a good idea, you can find intellectual and administrative support somewhere. Intellectual opportunities are unparalleled."
Now, John hopes to continue to foster this faculty excellence through the John E. Jackson Assistant Research Professorship Fund in the Department of Political Science in LSA. The Jacksons are endowing their funds in two ways: through a bequest and also through a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT). The CRUT provides John and Gretchen with a lifetime income stream, as well as support to their funds in the future.
"As part of our financial planning, we chose to establish the charitable remainder trust because it was financially beneficial both to us and to the university," says John.
The John E. Jackson Fund will support young faculty at a critical juncture in their careers. It will give junior faculty members a second semester of paid leave from teaching in addition to the one that the department provides, allowing them a full year of "nurturing time" to achieve tenured positions.
"Junior faculty are an incredibly important piece of the intellectual environment of a department," says John. "They have the most recent educational experiences, immense energy and are a tremendous source of new ideas."
John believes that by providing more opportunities for early-career faculty to focus on research, the department will continue to draw the world's best minds in political science—ensuring their growth as academics and the program's continued influence and prestige in the field.
These are the same types of transformative experiences that John and Gretchen Jackson hope to provide for students and faculty far into the future.