The University of Michigan has received a $3 million gift from Regent Mark Bernstein and his wife, Rachel Bendit, to help fund a new building that will house the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center.
The Board of Regents on Thursday approved naming the new building Bernstein-Bendit Hall. Construction was approved in December 2015. The Trotter Center currently is located off campus at 1443 Washtenaw Ave.
“Rachel and I are honored to support the legacy of all who have advanced the enriching and empowering mission of Trotter since its founding — the generations of U-M students who have been activists for diversity and the current U-M students whose advocacy helped guide the vision for this new building. Their movement inspires our gift,” Bernstein said.
“The location of this new building affirms that the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion are central to the University of Michigan community. These values are at the heart of our great university.”
Bernstein-Bendit Hall will sit along South State Street adjacent to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.
Bernstein earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from LSA, a Juris Doctor degree from the Law School, and a Master of Business Administration from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Bendit received a Bachelor of Arts degree from LSA, a Master of Education from Loyola University Maryland, and a Juris Doctor from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
Together they have been supporters of more than 10 units at U-M, including Athletics, UM-Dearborn, the U-M Health System, the Ross School, the University Musical Society, the U-M Museum of Art, and the Center for the Education of Women, among others.
They have been active volunteers at the university. Bernstein serves on the Greater Detroit Campaign Leadership Council, the Washtenaw County Campaign Leadership Council, and the Depression Center Campaign Council for the university’s Victors for Michigan campaign. Bendit has been active with UMS, serving on its board of directors and on its executive committee. She serves on the Washtenaw County Campaign Leadership Council and has volunteered for UMHS’ Event on Main.
The Trotter Multicultural Center serves as a place where all students can develop a better understanding and appreciation for the multicultural diversity of the university.
Trotter played a critical role in the early civil rights movement. Born in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1872 and raised in Boston, he graduated from Harvard University, then founded and edited a Boston newspaper, The Guardian, dedicated to the struggle for equal rights for African-Americans, until his death in 1934. The Trotter Multicultural Center was created in 1971 and took the Trotter name in recognition of his work for equal rights.
Bernstein has a deep dedication to civil rights having served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, where he was a strong voice for fairness and equality. He is president and managing partner of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm PLLC, and serves on the executive board of the Michigan Association for Justice and on the Negligence Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan.
He has served on the board of directors for Bend the Arc (formerly the Jewish Funds for Justice), a national public foundation working for a more fair, just and compassionate America.
Widely involved around Ann Arbor, he has served on the board of directors of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, the advisory board of Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County, and on both the governing board and board of trustees of the University of Michigan Hillel.
Bendit is a mediator, teacher and attorney who spends much of her time with her family and as a community volunteer. She works on various projects within Zingerman’s Community of Businesses and currently serves on the board of directors of the Jewish Women’s Archive.
She served on the board of directors of the Jewish Funders Network and the Dispute Resolution Center of Washtenaw and Livingston Counties. Bendit and Bernstein work closely with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and were honored to receive the Claire and Isadore Bernstein Award from Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County.
Bernstein-Bendit Hall is a result of extensive outreach and input from a variety of campus constituents, including four town hall meetings on campus, eight focus group sessions, benchmarking to other college and university campus multicultural centers, a survey of students, and student input from a broad and diverse group. The location of the new facility on State Street in the heart of the campus is a result of their expression of preferences.
“We are so grateful to Mark and Rachel for stepping forward to make this vision of a multicultural center in the middle of campus become a reality for our students,” said E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life.
“The ability of students and faculty to drop by the Trotter Multicultural Center in Bernstein-Bendit Hall to study, talk, discuss and meet will be greatly enhanced because of the new location that they will walk by every day.
“The first step in understanding people who might be different from yourself, or who you perceive as being different, is to have an opportunity to interact with them in an everyday situation. Mark and Rachel are making this happen for our students.”
President Mark Schlissel, in thanking the donors, said, “The gift from Regent Bernstein and Rachel Bendit will support the University of Michigan’s long-standing commitment to bring students from different backgrounds together to learn from one another in a welcoming environment. I commend their generosity and am delighted that their gift will help us move the Trotter Multicultural Center to central campus.”
Groundbreaking for Bernstein-Bendit Hall will take place in the fall.
This gift is part of the university’s Victors for Michigan $4 billion campaign, which includes a goal of raising $1 billion for student support.