Place of Honor

The Petherick Family Walk of Scholars, a recent addition to the Quad, recognizes donors of transformational gifts and serves as a unique gathering spot.

By Veren Aben, ’20 | Fall 2017

Powered by life-changing scholarships from generous and loyal donors, generations of Albion College students have charged successfully toward greatness as alumni. And while all students are grateful for these financial gifts, a sense emerged in recent years that more needed to be done on campus to acknowledge these donors, to tie alumni and current students together in a new way.

From these roots an idea blossomed, one that will honor the many who made so many college experiences come true: a new campus installation, in a setting that not only informs students of the legacy of alumni through their giving, but provides a distinct space for students, faculty, and staff to enjoy. Located on the north end of the Quad near the Observatory, it will be a site where professors can hold outdoor classes, campus organizations can sit together, and students can study and spend time together, all while recognizing the alumni that brought us this far.

Inspired by the importance of generations, Jeff Petherick, ’85, has stepped forward to be the lead donor on what will be called the Petherick Family Walk of Scholars. The Pethericks have strong ties to Albion College; alums also include Jeff’s parents—Keith, ’59, and Wendy Wheeker, ’60—and his son Chad, ’10.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in economics and management and history, Jeff went on to the University of Michigan where he earned his M.B.A. in finance. He is now a portfolio manager and partner at NorthPointe Capital in Troy. Currently a member of the College’s Board of Trustees, Petherick was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortar Board as well as Sigma Chi fraternity.

Jeff says the principle of “paying it forward” was instilled in him at a young age by his father, adding “he may not have called himself a scholar when he got out of high school, but when he graduated from Albion he was a scholar.” And just as someone took a chance on letting Keith come to Albion, Jeff says he has a duty to provide an opportunity for others to reach their dreams. He hopes the Walk of Scholars will inspire current and future students to also pay it forward, as well as gently remind them just how large the reach of the Albion College community can truly be.

The Walk of Scholars will include formal recognition of those who have given gifts toward endowed scholarships, building and renovation projects, and other transformational undertakings. The end result will be both beautiful and practical, make campus even more engaging and interesting, and perhaps foster thoughts toward future philanthropy. It will invoke curiosity in students when they see it for the first time, and stir up emotion when they pass through it as newly minted Albion College graduates.

Says Kimberly Frick Arndts, ’84, associate director of donor relations and stewardship: “As an alumna who walked these steps to pick up my own diploma over 30 years ago, I thought, ‘What better place to honor the legacy of those who have gone before us than to actually pass through their names, in gauntlet-style fashion, with all the pageantry, panache, and tradition that Commencement speaks to?’”

No matter the graduation year, the spirit of Albion is the same: it is a warm and loving place that broadens horizons and expands understanding through a fully integrated liberal arts education. And it’s where a lot of wonderful memories are made. In its own way, the Petherick Family Walk of Scholars will bind the Albion experiences of individuals into something much greater.

“You can tell it is a real community of people who value education, diversity, and intellect,” Petherick says. “There’s just something very special about Albion.”

Veren Aben is a philosophy and political science major from Jos, Nigeria. She is a member of the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service and current president of Black & Latinx Ministry on campus.