October 19, 2017

Programming designed to help Detroit Mercy students develop leadership skills will be strengthened and expanded thanks to a generous gift from a pioneering graduate of the Class of 1943.

Mary Gertrude Hindelang was one of the first female graduates of the Accounting program at University of Detroit, breaking new ground in a field dominated by men. She was president of her class and worked at the Arizona Air Tool Company for many years, not retiring until she was 88 years old. Hindelang was a world traveler, an avid golfer and bowler who loved hockey and basketball and was described as an independent spirit who lived in an era that didn’t always appreciate that trait in women.

Hindelang died in 2014 at the age of 98; in her will, she made a bequest of $52,000 to be used by the University for student professional development.

The Institute for Leadership and Service (ILS) provides opportunities for all members of the Detroit Mercy community to engage in social change for the common good. It promotes justice and compassionate service to those in need by students learning to lead and serve.

The gift will help in two ways. First, $30,000 will be used to establish an endowment for the ILS, thereby creating a stable source of funding for future leadership development programming. The remaining $22,000 will create the Emerging Leaders Program Fund, which will fund student leadership programming on the McNichols Campus.

Kathleen Zimmerman-Oster, Ph.D., professor of Psychology and director of Research, Evaluation and Leadership Development of the Institute says interest in Leadership programs is growing quickly. In fact, she said, with 430 students in it, the Leadership minor is the largest academic minor on campus. In addition, more than 600 students are part of the Emerging Leaders Program which allows students to be recognized with a leadership pin or medallion for their leadership and service.  In addition to supporting these programs, Dr. Zimmerman-Oster and Monica Williams, dean of students and deputy Title IX coordinator, plan to broaden the scope of what ILS has to offer students.

One recent way was to create a chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success on campus. With more than 1 million members on more than 600 campuses nationwide, the society is the nation’s largest leadership honor society. It promotes engagement on campus through a program that helps build leadership skills.

“It also brings national recognition for our students,” Williams said.

Students are invited to join the Society based on their grade point average and leadership and service involvement. Some 1,000 Detroit Mercy students were invited; 400 joined.

“And this was a week before school started,” Zimmerman-Oster said. “So, we were really pleased; it showed that passion for leadership and service are really part of our Detroit Mercy culture.”

Members of the Society must attend a number of interactive, livestreamed broadcasts featuring leaders from many areas. Previous speakers have included Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, Robert Gates, former U.S. secretary of defense, and actor Jesse Eisenberg.

Members also are eligible for national scholarships and awards and access to a job and internship bank. They will also take part in Success Networking Teams, which develop skills on goal setting, accountability and commitment.

Funding will also ensure students who can’t afford the membership fee are able to join the Society. The gift will help support student participation in local and national leadership summits and other leadership development programs including, Step Up: Be a Leader, and Pay It Forward — a group mentoring program where Detroit Mercy students teach leadership skills to neighboring Detroit high schools students.

“This gift from Ms. Hindelang will make a huge difference for students today and far into the future, as our students graduate and bring the leadership skills they learn at Detroit Mercy into their communities,” Zimmerman-Oster said.