Ora Pescovitz, president of Rochester Hill’s Oakland University, is building upon the university’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by creating the Rabbi Richard G. and Bella Hirsch Faculty Endowment for Racial and Social Justice.
“Diversity in our community benefits all of us and makes us better people,” says Pescovitz. “I thought this would be the perfect way to celebrate the way my mother and father have led their lives, working actively for civil rights and social justice. It is important for us to move the needle quickly when we talk about Oakland being a warm community that welcomes everyone.”
Named after Pescovitz’s parents, the endowment focuses on racial and social justice, more specifically the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty members as well as providing structure for underrepresented minority faculty members to be successful educators and research investigators.
Pescovitz says she understands the need of underrepresented minority students to have faculty members who look like them. That concept has been well researched over the years and it shows that underrepresented minority students have a greater sense of belonging and higher persistence and graduation rates when a campus has a critical mass of underrepresented educators of color as role models.
At first, the idea for the gift began as a $25,000 donation during the annual All University Fund Drive. Following the initial pledge, Pescovitz increased her commitment to $250,000 with hopes of it reaching $1 million dollars or more in years to come with support from other businesses and friends of Oakland.
“First as a trustee, and now as the board chair, my focus has been on improving the diversity, equity, and inclusion climate on our campus,” says Tonya Allen, chair of the board. “Ora has that same commitment. She has expressed this in words and deeds. Her gift is another way that she leads by example.”
Glenn McIntosh, senior vice president for student affairs and chief diversity officer says he saw a call to action from Pescovitz following the death of George Floyd.
“That incident really ignited Ora to make a dramatic impact on our campus,” says McIntosh. “She has always been on the social justice walk to equity due to her upbringing, but I think that event, and the subsequent marches last summer, really made her act decisively, leading with her heart.”
In addition, Pescovitz created another gift and endowment that specifically honors her mother, Bella Rozencweig Hirsch, that will have a focus on biomedical ethics within the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.