For 12 years, Marilyn Wheaton has contributed to the growing legacy of Marshall M. Fredericks, the late sculptor (1908-1998) whose iconic works include The Spirit of Detroit as well as the Cleveland War Memorial Fountain of Eternal Life.
Now Wheaton is preparing to transfer that responsibility to the hands of her successor. In December, she will retire as director of the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum housed on Saginaw Valley State University’s campus. A national search for a new director will soon be underway.
“I have accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish here, and more,” Wheaton said. “There’s a big, wonderful world of art that I still want to be part of in some way, but I feel like I have done everything I can do here. It’s time for someone new to step in.”
Since her hiring as director in 2006, Wheaton has overseen a considerable expansion of the museum’s offerings, a substantial growth in attendance and a strategic outreach aimed at increasing community engagement with the facility. Her advocacy of Fredericks’s legacy has reached far beyond the walls of the museum bearing his name.
“Marilyn has worked tirelessly to promote both Marshall Fredericks’s museum and his life’s work,” said Don Bachand, SVSU’s president. “The museum is a cultural gem in our community and a wonder of art in the eyes of the visitors who travel here from all across the world to see it. Without Marilyn, Fredericks' work may not have the audience it deserves.”
Bachand was one of the officials who recruited and hired Wheaton a dozen years ago to lead the Marshall M. Frederick Sculpture Museum, which first opened on SVSU’s campus in May 1988. Wheaton was charged with developing the relatively-young gallery into a mature institution with a firm footing in the community arts scene. If attendance numbers are any indication, she succeeded in that goal. Before Wheaton was named director, about 10,000 people visited annually. Within a decade, the museum counted a record 18,000 visitors in a single year.
A number of factors contributed to the growth, Wheaton said, including the following:
One of Wheaton’s proudest accomplishments at the museum now stands 12 feet tall in that garden, a symbolic representation of her dedication to preserving Fredericks’ legacy. Black Elk: Homage to the Great Spirit was the artist’s last sculpture, commissioned for installation at a bank in Southfield. Fredericks died in 1998 before the sculpture came back to Michigan from the East Coast foundry and the owner had moved to California. Instead of being displayed publicly, Black Elk was mothballed in a warehouse.
Fifteen years later, though, Wheaton brought Fredericks’s last commissioned piece to life. She tracked down the owner and secured a loan agreement with him so that Black Elk could be installed as the crown jewel of the new Jo Anne and Donald Petersen Sculpture Garden.
Konnie Gill, chairperson for the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum Board of Advisors, said Wheaton’s dedication to the late sculptor’s works is unmatched.
“I’ve been a member of many boards over the years, and I’ve never met a director — of any type of nonprofit — who has given their life to their job in the way Marilyn has,” said Gill, the former director of McLaren Bay Medical Foundation who now owns a physician recruitment business.
“Marilyn is the most devoted person I have ever met. Her love for the Fredericks family, for Marshall’s work, for SVSU — she is the epitome of who anyone would want as a director … or an employee, for that matter.
Wheaton’s relationship with Fredericks extends beyond her familiarity with his sculptures. She knew the man. Before her arrival at SVSU, Wheaton was immersed in the Detroit arts scene where she met Fredericks in his Royal Oak studio.
A native of small-town Silex, Missouri, Wheaton first arrived in Michigan in the late 1960s in part because her devout Roman-Catholic parents urged her to attend a Catholic institution for college. She chose Madonna University in Livonia. Not long after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history, she landed a job as a research assistant at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art.
Her exposure to the arts during her 11 years there inspired her to remain in the industry. Later, she spent eight years as director of the City of Detroit’s Cultural Affairs Department and 11 years leading Michigan’s first statewide arts advocacy organization, Concerned Citizens for the Arts in Michigan.
Her 12 years spent as director of the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum represents her longest tenure in any one role. Despite her work over that time, there is plenty of room for growth and development at the museum, she said, so long as her successor possesses both an artistic vision and a strong sense of community.
“You must be a people person who understands the importance of making connections with the people you serve and the people who can help you,” she said. “And you cannot successfully run a museum if you can’t see two years down the road. You can’t exist here without a strategic plan that provides that sort of long-term direction.”
Wheaton’s long-term plans reside outside of the Great Lakes Bay Region. She and her husband never sold their home in Detroit, where she plans to return full-time when she steps down as museum director at the end of December.
“I’m not leaving here to go to another job, but I’m confident there will be other opportunities that present themselves to me there,” she said. “I will be part of the Detroit arts community in some way. But I will miss my staff and all of the friends I’ve met here.”
For Dan Kennihan, membership to Saginaw Valley State University's National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) chapter means an experience sure to expand the mind and enrich the community.
Kennihan is the latest president of the SVSU student organization with a membership that prides itself on participating in community-minded service projects. The biology major from Mason said the experience is humbling.
"You hand out food to people in need on a Saturday, but then you get to go home to your house, with your warmth or your air conditioning," he said. "For me, it puts it in perspective how easy it is to make a difference."
Kennihan and his fellow members recently were recognized for the difference they members make in the the lives of others across the Great Lakes Bay Region.
The SVSU group received the Gold Star Chapter award from the NCSC’s national office. The status is a distinction earned by some of the 320 chapters nationwide that best demonstrate excellence in engaging, student-centered community service projects.
SVSU’s chapter in recent months participated in initiatives benefiting organizations such as Relay for Life, the Saginaw Children's Zoo, and The Jared Box Project.
Hali Motley, the previous chapter president for SVSU’s group, said the community engagement provides an enriching experience. She was particularly moved by her work with The Jared Box Project, a nonprofit that provides boxes of toys to children admitted to hospitals.
“Jared Box Project is important to us as a chapter because we — as college students — know how important it is to work hard and play even harder,” said Motley, a Birch Run native who received a bachelor's degree in international business in May.
“We wanted a chance to give back to the kids in our community — who are stuck in the hospital during the holiday season — to give them more chances to play while they were working hard on getting better.”
Kennihan said his involvement in the SVSU chapter’s work continues to provide him with a sense of community with his fellow members.
“We are all working toward the same goal of giving back to the community,” Kennihan said.
Community members eager to dive deep into records revealing their family history — and anxious to record those findings for future generations — are in luck.
Saginaw Valley State University's community writing centers in Bay City and Saginaw next month will host free workshops to guide participants through extensive genealogical research of their family lineages. The sessions also will involve advising attendees on how best to document those discoveries.
The Bay Community Writing Center will kick off the "Writing Your Family History" workshop series Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Alice and Jack Wirt Public Library, 500 Center Ave. in Bay City.
The Saginaw Community Writing Center will host the second workshop the following week. That session is scheduled Tuesday, Aug. 14, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Butman-Fish Branch Library, 1716 Hancock in Saginaw.
Both sessions are open to the public.
The workshops will be led by tutors from SVSU’s Writing Center — a writing assistance service housed at the university — as well as staff from the participating libraries.
The Bay and Saginaw community writing centers are operated in part by SVSU's Writing Center staff members, who help residents during scheduled sessions at local libraries. The community writing centers were established through partnerships with the Bay Area Community Foundation as well as the Saginaw Community Foundation.
For more information about the "Writing Your Family History" workshops or the community writing centers' regularly scheduled sessions, visit www.svsu.edu/communitywriting/.
Madison Crawford can see seventh grade approaching quickly, but thanks to a science-based camp for girls at Saginaw Valley State University, the Bullock Creek youth may have glimpsed even further into her future this summer.
In June, Crawford was one of 25 middle school-aged girls who participated in SVSU's Camp Infinity, a week-long outing featuring hands-on activities and college professors teaching and mentoring female youths interested in careers relating to computer and Internet technology.
The second-year camp represents a collaboration between The Dow Chemical Company, the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation, IBM, Microsoft and SVSU, the camp's host. The first two gatherings proved enough of a hit with participants that organizers decided to offer an additional camp for high school-aged girls, scheduled from Monday to Friday, July 23-27.
Crawford, a self-proclaimed prospective computer science student despite only recently completing the sixth grade at Bullock Creek Middle School, said June's camp was an empowering experience that was punctuated by the participation of female professors and scientists who serve as role models.
“On the first day of camp, the teachers told us why they were interested in science, and it made me feel close to them,” she said.
“It's also easier to express yourself at Camp Infinity, because you are with other girls with some of the same interests as you. They're pursuing things I want to pursue.”
Those involved in June's camp developed smartphone apps in SVSU's computer labs; and built and programmed robots capable of responding to voice commands. The week culminated in a “dance party” with the student-built robots.
Betsy Diegel, SVSU's STEM mobile lab support specialist and Camp Infinity's director, said she was not surprised by the positive response from participants.
“I wish I would have had a program like this when I was a girl,” Diegel said. “I would have loved this.”
While Diegel went on to pursue a career in the sciences, she said programs such as Camp Infinity increase the likelihood other young girls will pursue their passion for STEM.
“We see females are so underrepresented in our region's STEM workforce,” she said. “Getting girls excited and exposed to this kind of education early on is crucial to changing that underrepresentation.”
A video showcasing Camp Infinity - and Crawford - is available at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g46cbk5Emtk
Saginaw Valley State University’s supportive environment for faculty and staff has resulted in the school being selected as a “Great College to Work For” for the third consecutive year by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a top trade publication for colleges and universities.
SVSU was the only public university in Michigan to receive the coveted designation in 2018.
The distinction was announced earlier this week when The Chronicle published its 11th annual report on The Academic Workplace. SVSU was among 84 higher education institutions — out of 253 institutions that applied — to achieve the honor this year. SVSU has earned the distinction each of the three times the university has applied.
SVSU President Donald Bachand said to be selected for the honor three years in a row speaks to how the university community is deeply dedicated to serving students.
“We have longstanding commitment to empowering faculty and staff to pursue initiatives that improve teaching, learning and service opportunities for students,” Bachand said.
“We have worked to build and sustain a strong culture of growth and opportunity, even in the face of challenges. I am proud of our collective efforts to not settle for mediocrity, but to instead push to be better and to do better for our students and for the communities we serve.”
SVSU was honored in the same four categories for the second consecutive year: compensation and benefits; facilities, workspace and security; teaching environment; and tenure clarity and process.
The survey featured components including a questionnaire about institutional characteristics and a faculty/staff questionnaire about individuals’ evaluations of their institutions. The selection process also included an analysis of demographic data and workplace policies at each institution.
The questionnaires were administered online in March and April across SVSU, which employs more than 750 full-time faculty and staff members.
To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide.
Great Colleges to Work For is one of the largest and most respected workplace-recognition programs in the nation. For more information and to view all the results of the survey, visit The Chronicle’s website at www.chronicle.com/interactives/greatcolleges18.
The Alden and Vada Dow Creativity Foundation, in conjunction with the Saginaw Bay Writing Project, is hosting the Michigan Authors' Series.
Four well-known Michigan authors will read their work Tuesday, July 24 and Wednesday, July 25 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at The Saints and Sinners Lounge at the Midland Center for the Arts. The series is free and open to the public.
“These four authors represent some of the best writers in the state of Michigan today, and their work – which includes poetry, memoir and fiction – is worth reading and hearing,” said Helen Raica-Klotz, director of Saginaw Valley State University's Writing Center and the director of the Saginaw Bay Writing Project.
Tuesday night, authors Linda Nemec Foster and Anne-Marie Oomen will read from their co-authored book, “The Lake Michigan Mermaid.”
Nemec Foster has authored 11 collections of poetry and is the first Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids. She also received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work from the Dyer-Ives Foundation.
Oomen has authored several books of memoir and poetry, including “Uncoded Woman” and “Pulling Down the Barn.” She currently teaches at conferences around the country as well as The Solstice MFA at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts and Interlochen's College of Creative Arts.
Authors Zilka Joseph and John Mauk will read from their work on Wednesday night.
Joseph has published two chapbooks, and her first book of poems, “Sharp Blue Search of Flame,” was a Foreword Indie Prize Finalist.
Mauk currently teaches at Miami University and co-directs the Ohio Writing Project. He has written four college textbooks and is the author of a collection of short fiction, “Field Notes for the Earthbound.”
“We are very fortunate to have Oomen, Mauk, Joseph and Nemec Foster as part of our Authors' Series this year, thanks to the generous support of the Alden and Vada Dow Creativity Foundation,” Raica-Klotz said.
The Michigan Author's Series is part of the 2018 Vada B. Dow Writer's Workshop for Area Teachers, funded by the Alden and Vada Dow Creativity Foundation, to support the professional growth of writing teachers in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
The Saginaw Bay Writing Project is an SVSU organization that supports teachers throughout Mid-Michigan through professional development and workshops.
Saginaw Valley State University will display the works of a 20th century Saginaw artist whose legacy resonates with her creative successors in the University Art Gallery this summer.
The exhibition featuring the work of Julia Roecker will be shown from July 2 to Aug. 10.
Art pieces shown in the exhibition will include traditional work in the area of linocut and woodblock prints, as well as silkscreen and impressionist pastel drawings. In addition to these pieces, there will be examples of her sketchbooks displayed.
Roecker shared her skills of art and teaching with the people she inspired during her lifetime.
Born in Saginaw in 1887, she received her art training at the Arts Institute of Chicago. After receiving her education, she returned to her hometown – with her husband Henry – to teach art classes at Saginaw High School.
Roecker then continued to instruct others at Alma College as a professor of art. After retiring from Alma, she finished her career in Saginaw as the director of the Saginaw Art Museum, a title she held for 10 years until her retirement.
The couple's accomplished life is detailed in the book “A Century on Canvas: The Lives and Work of Julia Roberts and Henry Leon Roecker” by Jean Beach.
Julia Roecker was a dynamic artist, as SVSU's studio art technician Sara Clark described.
“There wasn't much in art that she wasn't in charge of at Alma College, so she was constantly working in different media and taking different approaches to her favorite subject matter which consisted largely of flora and fauna,” she said.
Even after her death at the age of 101 in 1988, Clark said that her legacy remains in the region through others.
“She was quite prolific as an artist, and this passion and discipline surely rubbed off on her students and admirers.”
The exhibition is free and open to the public. The art gallery is open daily Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information on SVSU's University Art Gallery, visit www.svsu.edu/artgallery/.
Saginaw Valley State University student Valerie Klein's passion for marketing and her creative spirit paid off recently when she received a scholarship from the Midland Area Chamber of Commerce.
A marketing major from New Lothrop, Klein is one of three students in the region to receive the $1,500 scholarship. High school and college students were eligible. She currently works as the marketing and events coordinator for the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. Greater Michigan Chapter and the Greater Michigan Construction Academy, where she is implementing her marketing skills learned at SVSU.
Although she was not sure what her future career plans were when arriving at SVSU for the first time, Klein soon found her career path.
“As a freshman, I wasn't sure what I wanted to study, but I learned of marketing and fell in love. It really is the creative side to the business world where I can showcase the interesting ideas that pop in my head,” Klein said.
Bill Stec, assistant director of SVSU Career Services, has served as a mentor to Klein. He said her success is a result of her committed efforts in both the classroom and on the job.
“Valerie is such a dedicated marketing student that thinks critically, is open to ideas and perspectives, and is proactive. And it shows, as she has completed three internships with Tri-City Motor Speedway as the operations and marketing intern, Nexteer Automotive as the global supply management resource group co-op and Vector Tech Group as a marketing co-op,” he said. “It has been a joy advising her.”
Klein credits her family, mentors and SVSU for shaping and preparing her for life after her planned graduation in 2019.
“After graduation, I plan to get a full-time job in marketing and stay within the Great Lakes Bay Region. I have really grown within this region and plan to better my skills and help companies and individuals along the way.”
For more information on internship opportunities at SVSU, visit www.svsu.edu/careers.