Oakland University President Establishes Endowment for Racial and Social Justice

Building upon her creation of Oakland University’s fourth goal committing to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, President Ora Pescovitz has now made a significant gift to impact the future of the university with the creation of 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,” Pescovitz said. “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.”The endowment, named after her parents, focuses on racial and social justice, more specifically the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty members as well as providing the structure for underrepresented minority faculty members to be successful educators and research investigators.

Pescovitz said she also understands the need of underrepresented minority students (URM) to have faculty members who “look like me.” That concept has been well-researched over the years and it shows that URM 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.

The idea for this gift began as a $25,000 donation during the annual All University Fund Drive. Following the initial pledge, Pescovitz was inspired to increase her commitment to $250,000 with hopes of it reaching a million dollars or more in years to come with support from other businesses and friends of OU.

Oakland University Board of Trustees Chair Tonya Allen said, “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. And, Ora has that same commitment. She has expressed this in words and deeds. Her gift is another way that she leads by example.”

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Britt Rios-Ellis, who joined Oakland University in January added, “OU is not only the university of choice for our students but it’s also my university of choice. Working under a transformational, mission-driven leader like Ora makes OU the best choice for us all. I am continually inspired by her passion and focus on creating equity across campus.”

Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Glenn McIntosh said 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,” he said. “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/endowment that specifically honors her mother, Bella Rozencweig Hirsch. That gift/endowment has a focus on biomedical ethics within the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.

Vice President for University Advancement Michael Westfall said of the gift, “I have served at several higher education institutions in my career and I have never seen a proactive leader like Ora. When she sees an opportunity to improve the university, she takes it. She leads the way by giving of her time, talent and through her generous financial support of our university.”

Rabbi Richard G. and Bella Hirsch