Bonciel Griffin-Burress, '97: The Importance of Legacy

Bonciel Griffin-Burress"Why wait until later when you can help people now? I feel better knowing that as I'm growing and expanding and I'm blessed with opportunities, I'm sharing."

Inspiring Rally

Tennis courtAn unforeseen six-figure cost of a tennis court renovation project presented an equally unforeseen, and particularly meaningful, opportunity for former Britons to reconnect with their alma mater.

Inspiring Rally

Alums are stepping up to support the College’s tennis-court renovation project.

By John Perney

There’s something about defending the home court that brings a team together.

In this case, the opposition wasn’t a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association school, but rather the elements. Only these elements didn’t fall from the sky. They crept up from below.

“Tennis was a big part of my life growing up, but I realized I probably wasn’t going to be Billie Jean King,” says Suzanne Scrutton, ’86 (left), who met the one and only Ms. King at a Columbus benefit last year.

What had been a gradual cracking over many years of the tennis courts outside the Dow Recreation and Wellness Center unexpectedly reached the point last summer where several of the courts were deemed unsuitable for intercollegiate play. The unforeseen six-figure cost, however, presented an equally unforeseen, and particularly meaningful, opportunity for former Britons to reconnect with their alma mater.

Indeed, Albion tennis stars Suzanne Scrutton, ’86, and Dave Haak, ’84, saw the project as the perfect vehicle for a significant gift—a unique way to smash one more cross-court winner for the Brits, if you will.

“It seemed like a natural that I would do this,” says Scrutton, a member of the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame who was named to two All-MIAA first teams and won the 1985 league title at second-flight singles. After majoring in philosophy and anthropology and sociology at Albion, she went on to receive her J.D. from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, which she continues to call home today. She is a partner at the law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, where she has built up the healthcare practice over the last 20 years. “As a scholar-athlete, tennis taught me a lot of life lessons in terms of prioritizing, multitasking, time management, and goal-setting,” she says.

Haak, an MIAA tournament runner-up in each of his four years, shares similar sentiments. “Albion tennis was great,” he says, “and tennis in my work life has paid huge dividends in many ways. It opened a lot of doors.” Currently a managing director for Slalom Consulting, the Lansing-based Haak recently retired as a partner with Accenture and before that led a range of information-management projects at IBM. He received his M.B.A. from the University of Michigan after graduating from Albion with a B.A. in economics and management and computational mathematics.

“Dave Haak, ’84, with his wife, Julie, at the 2016 U.S. Open in New York.

Along with the six outdoor hardcourts, completely rebuilt to last up to 25 years, the Ungrodt Tennis Center’s four indoor courts were also updated. All feature a Briton purple playing surface and were in full use this spring by the men’s and women’s tennis teams. Perhaps years from now, the 2018 Brits will recall being the first to play at the revamped complex as part of their close-knit camaraderie, something an NCAA Division III experience is all about.

“I actually never stepped foot on Albion’s campus until the first day of SOAR,” remembers Haak, who was recruited by former coach Ken Foust as a senior at the high school state tournament. A “late bloomer,” starting tennis at 13, “Division I would’ve been a grind,” Haak adds. “Albion looked to be the right fit, and we just had a bunch of really close guys on the team.”

“The best memories are the ones where we were on road trips with Char Duff,” says Scrutton, referring to the legendary Albion physical education professor and women’s athletics pioneer, who passed away in 2013. And Duff put Scrutton’s leadership to work off the court as well. “She thought I was a really good driver—the flip side of being captain,” Scrutton says with a laugh. “You play three or four tennis matches, and then you’re driving home from Jenison.”

Another donor to the project, Marilyn Spitler Misner, ’68, also remembers Duff well. “While I did not have the opportunity to play college tennis, our daughter (Kristin Misner Meier, ’96) enjoyed her years on Albion’s tennis team,” she says. “I am excited that Albion men and women have the opportunity to play on beautifully resurfaced courts.”

Fundraising continues for the Albion Tennis Project, which includes opportunities for individual court naming rights. To learn more, contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 517/629-0446 or .

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

Richard and Marilyn Vitek, '56 '56Leave 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

vitek-atrium-2016-220Forty 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

vitek-atrium-greenhouse-330The 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.

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