Penny W. Stamps donates $32.5 million to the School of Art & Design

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By Peter Shahin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 20, 2012

The University’s Board of Regents unanimously voted Thursday to change the name of the School of Art & Design to the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design to recognize a $32.5 million donation to the school, the largest in its history.

In addition to the donation from the Penny and Roe Stamps Foundation, the University will contribute $7.5 million, for a total of $40 million. The donation is the biggest since the foundation of the School of Art & Design in 1974, and one of the largest gifts to any art school in the country.

According to Jerry May, the University’s vice president for development, the money provided by the Stamps and matched by the University will largely be used to sustain existing programs, including the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Visitors Series, the school’s art gallery, professorships and an expansion of a scholarship program within the School of Art and Design.

University President Mary Sue Coleman wrote in a statement that the donation plays a critical role in positively molding the future experiences of students.

“The depth of the Stamps' support is hard to fathom, because it will shape students' experiences and opportunities for decades to come,” Coleman said. “That is the power of this gift: Its immense transformation of the U-M experience. It is creativity personified.”

Gunalan Nadarajan, the dean of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design, lauded the Stamps for their dedication to aiding University students.

“These are amazing people who have an incredible commitment to the school,” Nadarajan said. “I know that they have confidence in the direction that the school has taken in the last 10 to 12 years.”

Penny and E. Roe Stamps have contributed significantly to the University over the years, beginning in 2001 with the Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Visitors Series, which has brought dozens of artists to the Michigan Theater to share their experiences and perspectives with students.

The Stamps family also supported a public gallery on Central Campus to promote awareness of the arts for the general student body.

Penny Stamps is a graduate of the School of Art and Design and previously served as the principal designer for Boston firm Penny W. Stamps Interiors. She also co-chaired the Michigan Difference campaign, along with Stephen M. Ross and others, which ultimately raised $3.2 billion for the University between 2004 and 2008.

Stamps said in a press statement that she has been pleased to see her donations help students thrive.

“It has been very rewarding for us to be a part of A&D’s growth and development during these past 15 years,” Stamps said in the release. “We have been pleased to see our investments in the school make a compelling difference to the school’s excellence and prominence, and our involvement has escalated as a result. We are enormously proud of the programs we support and want to ensure that they continue to benefit students for generations.”

Chrisstina Hamilton, director of the Stamps Lecture Series, said the Series has been a great resource for students seeking to network and learn more about the field.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful thing, it’s a huge gift to the community, it’s a gift to the University,” Hamilton said. “When Penny started the series, her objective was to create an opportunity for students to have connection with real practitioners in the field and not just academics.”

The Stamps family has also helped fund the construction of the Stamps Auditorium on North Campus, facilities in the Ross Academic Center and the School of Education, in addition to funding the Stamps Scholarships at the University. The program hosts 72 students per year, and support has been guaranteed through 2024.

“The Stamps gift provides us with much-needed resources in supporting creative work at the University,” University Provost Philip Hanlon said in a press release. “This sends a signal to educators and other philanthropists, and is a significant investment that will continue to grow as the school pursues its other funding goals.”

Daily Staff Reporter Austen Hufford contributed to this report.