Dr. William H. Bremer, '63
Turning Tragedy Into Triumph
When clinical psychologist, Dr. Barbara E. Bremer, ’68, was killed while riding her bicycle after work in September of 1985 on a country road near Champaign, IL, her older brother, Dr. William H. Bremer, ’63, was certain that he had to use the traumatic experience to do something meaningful. “I was proud that she followed in my footsteps and came to Albion,” he says. “At her memorial service, so many people said that she was so wonderful and made such an impact on their lives.”
Just six years earlier, Bill’s cousin, Lynn Ellen Hulbert, ’61,
died from cancer. Lynn had been an elementary school teacher in central Indiana. Within a short span of time, Bill had lost two significant women in his life, both at the age of 39. “My sister and my cousin could have contributed a lot more to people’s lives if they had not died so young, and I thought maybe I could help in some way.” Since Albion College was a family tradition, it only made sense for Bill and his mother, Esther Plain, to create a scholarship endowment that would provide financial aid for students intending to enter a healing profession. “A lot of qualified students will not make it without help. This will help give qualified people a chance to realize their dreams,”
Bill knows from personal experience the difference that a scholarship can make. While at Albion, he was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship that involved helping his academic counselor, Professor Ewell A. Stowell, with setting up his botany class labs and helping care for the greenhouse. Although much of his time at Albion was spent studying and preparing for medical school, he was also involved in Sigma Chi. This is something he considers to be an important and lasting part of his college experience, as he tended to be a rather shy student. “Looking back, my time at Albion was really one of the happiest times of my life. I remember packing up my VW bug and driving home after graduation, feeling sad that I was leaving,” he says. “It expanded my horizons so that I could see things in a much bigger context.”
After Albion, Bill went on to the Indiana University School of Medicine. He then served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era as a Lieutenant Commander in the Medical Corps in Sasebo, Japan and on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. He eventually worked as a private practice pediatrician in San Francisco’s Mission District until retiring. For the past four years he has served as the Council President of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church with a congregation mostly of German immigrants, and the only church in northern California to offer services in both English and German.
“There are incidental things that you learn in college that turn out to have unforeseen importance. I had three years of German in high school and two more years at Albion. Although this wasn’t useful as a doctor, now in retirement I’m the president of a German church,” he says. “Sometimes you have to go through a large part of your life before certain things, like speaking German, are found to have value.”
Bill’s experience at Albion is something that not only led to his successful career as a pediatrician, but it helped him succeed in, what he considers to be, his “second calling”. This lifelong impact is one of the many reasons that he feels it’s important to give back to the College. “Albion has made such an impact on so many lives. It’s important to give something back to the institution that enabled you to get where you’re at today. Honoring that life reward is a commendable thing to do.”
Bill says that he wants to give a gift that will keep on giving in honor of the experience that he, Barbara, and Lynn had at Albion College. “One day I’ll be gone. I want to leave some kind of mark that validates my existence and that of my sister, cousin and mother.”
More Gifts in Action
101 North Superior
Meeting, making, and learning space. Downtown.
For both Albion College and the town of Albion to be sustainable and vibrant, we must create a forging of experience, expertise, effort, and energy.
And that means a physical space where students, faculty and staff from Albion College can interact with members of the community, along with other scholars, business leaders, and alumni from around the country, to help forge a powerful partnership.
At the intersection of Cass and Superior streets, the physical representation of this idea will stand as an example of progress for all of Albion.
Imagine a space where Albion College students, alongside professors and staff from the college and members of the community, can dissect complex community level problems together.
Imagine a building that will provide learning spaces for the Albion College institutes – The Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy and Service; The Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management; the Institute for Healthcare Professions; the Center for Sustainability and the Environment; and the Shurmur Center for Teacher Development – in the heart of Albion’s business district.
And imagine a makerspace that provides a creative environment where new business ideas can be created and developed collaboratively. This is the vision for 101 North Superior.
We will create a building, currently owned and being renovated for occupancy by Saginaw businessman Sam Shaheen, ’88, to suit the needs of both Albion College and the community. Beyond the physical structure, we will build programming to support student engagement with community development projects, the Build Albion Fellows program, and business start-up and growth efforts.
Partner With Us
Gifts to support the completion of 101 North Superior will be permanently recognized on the property. Specific naming opportunities exist for gifts from $5,000 to $3,000,000.
Gifts for programming will help forge the intentional partnership between the town and the college – creating a hub for one Albion. The Build Albion Fellows program, initiatives geared toward launching and helping new businesses grow and relocate in Albion, public policy and city administration information sharing, and internship programs - among others - will have a permanent home in the Superior building.
To learn more, please contact the Development Office at , or call 517/629-0402.
Richard and Marilyn Vitek, '56 '56
A Good Year
Longtime donors Richard and Marilyn Vitek, ’56 ’56, have honored their class’ vintage with additional, targeted gifts leading up to their 60th reunion.
By John Perney
Leave it to Richard Vitek to turn to chemistry to briefly sum up his Albion College experience.
“Professors, students just all bonded together very well,” says the retired chemical researcher and highly successful entrepreneur. “They did a lot of things together, and there is a tremendous camaraderie that sticks.”
The characteristics of that camaraderie usually evolve and deepen over time, and for 1956 alumni Richard and Marilyn Young Vitek (right), the year of their 60th Albion reunion was the right time to toast those connections through what Richard calls “a program of possibility”—a group of particular gifts to the College that carry immediate impact.
The Viteks’ generosity to the College had already been substantial: their major gift funded the technology teaching auditorium (Norris 102) in the Science Complex project more than a decade ago; they had created endowed scholarships in chemistry and biology in Richard’s and Marilyn’s names, respectively; and they also had given to the President’s discretionary fund as well as unrestricted gifts.
Now, just in 2015-2016, the couple has given:
• Nearly $86,000 to renovate the long dormant greenhouse in Olin Hall and create the Young Greenhouse and Marilyn Young Vitek, ’56, Atrium Study Lounge;
• $50,000 to establish the Richard K. Vitek, ’56, FURSCA Endowment, benefiting the College’s Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity;
• $30,000 for a thermogravimetric analyzer (TGA) for the Chemistry Department (the instrument measures the weight change in a sample as a function of heating the sample);
• More than $18,000 to the Biology Department for analytical supplies and imaging equipment from Fotodyne, the Hartland, Wisconsin-based company founded by Richard more than 30 years ago that was the first enterprise dedicated to the manufacture and marketing of laboratory and scientific instruments for the separation, visualization, and analysis of DNA;
• And more than $17,500 to the Physics Department, which coupled from additional funds from the College’s Information Technology Office will create a designated “IT floor” for physics in Palenske Hall.
• Additionally, a gift of two original 1970s works from American landscape painter Robert William Wood to the Art and Art History Department is being discussed.
Concerning the science department gifts, Dick mentions rather humbly that “small needs are often overlooked, and we wanted to help some of the departments with some of their needs.”
Similarly, Marilyn, whose degree is in home economics, adds about the greenhouse project: “My Dad loved gardening and his greenhouse. That was his life. It sounded like a really good project to us.”
Vision and Impact
Forty years ago, in 1976, a gift from Marilyn’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edward J.F. Young (who had connections to two legendary Britons: coach Dale Sprankle and Admission’s Frank Bonta, ’49) made possible the Young Greenhouses attached to Robinson Hall. The facility—consisting of fern, mesophytic, cacti, and tropical rooms—was relocated to Olin during Robinson’s 1990s renovation but not used to its full potential. Now, the Young Greenhouse will grow landscaping plants for use campus-wide, allowing not only for student hands-on experiences with faculty and staff, but also for significant cost savings, as those plants up until now usually had been purchased by the College at retail.
Adjacent to the greenhouse, the Vitek Atrium (right) has already become the popular multidisciplinary collaboration and study space, conducive to reflective learning, that the couple envisioned.
“We are thrilled that you have decided to renovate this area,” wrote Andy Boyan, assistant professor of communication studies and faculty liaison for Olin Hall, in a letter to the Viteks. “With your generosity … we will be able to showcase Olin Hall as a place where learning and student life happens side by side.”
In a letter thanking the Viteks for the TGA, associate professor of chemistry Kevin Metz wrote that prior to the gift, his students’ research had been limited and dependent on his access to a TGA in Ireland through a separate arrangement. “Your gift will allow my students and me to push our research efforts forward in a more consistent manner and, more importantly, will allow my students to learn this valuable technique for themselves,” Metz wrote.
Indeed, for Richard, the importance of developing skills in the lab as an undergraduate was a key factor in the new FURSCA Endowment, which will have an award preference for projects in environmental chemistry. “Albion College gave me tremendous knowledge in my field,” he says. “Because of the educational training I received at Albion, I was well prepared to go on to graduate school, and from there develop an excellent career in chemistry and biochemistry.”
Richard’s work impacted several industries. He collaborated with the Coast Guard to develop a methodology to identify and inspect ships suspected of causing oil spills. Using thin-layer and gas chromatography, he successfully identified and quantified dangerous levels of poisonous aflatoxins in commercial peanut butter. And he also discovered that previous testing mechanisms for arsenic in food products, particularly California wines, were insufficient, prompting action from the Environmental Protection Agency.
When it comes to impact, Richard deftly shifts the focus to his Albion professors who made a liberal arts difference, especially Chemistry’s Albert Monk and Physics’ Howard Pettersen. “Dr. Pettersen invited us to his home on occasion, and we just talked about physics,” he says. “He’d play Beethoven and taught us how music was tied into mathematics.”
Yet Richard and Marilyn firmly acknowledge the rewards they have experienced in their support of student learning, which eclipses $570,000 across three decades of giving.
“It’s always been our wish to help students,” Marilyn says. “We get wonderful letters from students when they receive their scholarship. It’s fascinating to read them and find out that they truly appreciate it. We know the expenses for college have just skyrocketed, and so many of them say that with family circumstances they just would not be able to go to Albion without that extra support.”
A Special Time and Place
The Viteks will make the trip to Albion from Florida to celebrate their 60th reunion at Homecoming in October, which will include a reception at the Young Greenhouse and Vitek Atrium (right). But forgive the Illinois natives if they sneak in an extra “happy 60th anniversary” during the weekend—Marilyn and Richard were married two weeks after graduating from Albion, and they easily recall how it all began.
“I was studying for a final, and I needed to go to the student center in Baldwin to have a Coke and wake up a little bit,” says Richard, describing his freshman-year memory. “I went down there, and I saw one person sitting by himself. We started talking about chemistry and physics, and he pulled a picture out of his wallet, which I thought was very unusual. He said it was his sister, and I realized it was a girl I had seen outside the physics building every Tuesday and Thursday.”
“I remember the story,” says Marilyn, whose brother Bob Young, ’55, just happened to be in the right place at the right time. “The first date we had was the play Androcles and the Lion.”
The George Bernard Shaw work proved to be just the opening act of the Viteks’ long-running association with Albion. In 1985, their youngest daughter, Evelyn, graduated with honors; now, the couple’s gifts in 2015-16 represent another milestone.
“We feel very fortunate that we are able to do this, to further the exceptional educational programs for Albion students,” Marilyn says. “And we will continue to support Albion in this endeavor.”
This story was originally published in the Fall 2016 edition of Advancing Albion.
More Gifts in Action