The A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning received two gifts this fall totaling $4.1 million from two private donors and alumni: David Lepo, and Randy Howder and his husband, Neal Conatser.
Lepo, who said he wants all college students to have the educational opportunities he had, pledged $1.35 million to the school to support future leaders in the field of urban and regional planning.
The planned gift builds on the David A. Lepo Urban Planning Scholarship Fund, which he established in January 2022.
“I’ve had a very fortunate life, and that includes the opportunity to attend Taubman College,” Lepo said. “Some people don’t have as easy a way as I did. I was very fortunate. I was an out-of-state student and could still afford to go to Michigan. I want everybody to have that chance because there’s no reason not to allow everybody to rise to their best.”
The named scholarship fund supports students with demonstrated financial need in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program. It also gives preference to students from Ohio, where Lepo grew up.
Lepo said he recognizes that having a diverse population of practitioners with critical thinking skills honed at an institution like the Taubman College helps ensure that the profession of urban planning promotes a just and sustainable future.
“Planners play a vital role in helping our society make the changes we need to thrive,” Taubman College Dean Jonathan Massey said. “We thank David for demonstrating the power of planning, and for making a Taubman College education available to future generations so that they, too, can build better futures.”
Howder, an architect, and Conatser, a real estate agent, share a goal of making college education more accessible to a broader range of learners and pledged $2.75 million to support the next generation of leaders in the built environment at the Taubman College.
The planned gift follows an initial contribution made in 2021 to establish the Howder-Conatser Architecture Scholarship Fund to support students in the Bachelor of Science in architecture program at Taubman College.
“Education is the answer to a lot of what we see going wrong in the world, whether it’s income disparity, understanding climate change, how we transition to a different kind of economy, or how thought and reason can overcome bad actors and disinformation,” Howder said. “The best way to positively impact the future is to give more people access to a high-quality education.”
Scholarship awards from the Howder-Conatser Fund support students who are the first in their families to attend college and those with financial need.
“Randy promotes excellence not only by example but also through mentoring and civic engagement,” Massey said.
“With this gift, he and Neal extend that generosity to the next generation of Taubman College students. We thank them for ensuring that first-generation students and those with financial need can join us in advancing architectural knowledge and practice.”