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Posted on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

University of Michigan regents say they impressed donors during California trip

By Kellie Woodhouse

University of Michigan regents said their recent visit to California was so successful they plan to conduct a similar trip again.


University of Michigan regent Laurence Deitch speaks during a Board of Regents meeting. file photo

The regents forwent their scheduled January public meeting to travel to Los Angeles as a group and meet with higher education leaders and donors.

The trip took place Jan. 17th and 18th and included seven of the eight regents, university President Mary Sue Coleman, provost Philip Hanlon, secretary Sally Jo Churchill, chief fundraiser Jerry May and a staffer.

The cost was $27,200, including $17,000 for Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel accommodations and food, $9,700 for travel and another $500 for random expenses.

"It was a great learning experience for all of us," Board of Regents chairman Laurence B. Deitch said during a Thursday meeting. "We talked about in years to come replicating this in different parts of the country."

The trip, he said, provided regents an opportunity to get acquainted with their two newest colleagues, newly elected regents Mark Bernstein and Shauna Ryder Diggs.

During the two-day session, the board met with Robert Birgeneau, chancellor of University of California's Berkeley campus, John Hennessy, president of Stanford University, Robert Berdahl, former leader of UC-Berkeley and other colleges, and Dan Russell, a Google research scientist.

They talked with guests about "tough and intractable problems" facing higher education, including affordability and education technology, and reached out to California donors during two events in an effort to further cultivate alumni relationships prior to launching the next capital campaign.

Donors, U-M officials said, were impressed that the regents traveled west together.

"Southern California has become an incredibly important area in terms of philanthropic [support]," Deitch said, explaining one event was a "fun," "fabulous night" during which a U-M student music group performed.

There are 41,000 U-M alumni living in California, the biggest concentration of Wolverines in any state except for Michigan. Officials have said the next fundraising campaign, expected to launch in fall 2013, will target donors from the West Coast.

"It was very important [for donors] to see the governance of the university in action," Deitch said. "We made the point, when you invest in Michigan you need to know that people are appreciative of it."

Coleman agreed that the trip "helped our development efforts" and impressed potential donors.

Added May: "It made a huge difference."

As a result of forgoing the January public meeting, the board is scheduled to meet publicly 10 times in 2013, as opposed to the traditional 11 monthly meetings each year.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Fri, Apr 19, 2013 : 6:14 p.m.

This is an old thread, but for the naysayers: "Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R—Ann Arbor) echoed Coleman, saying Michigan will be the only university to have a residential hall option for graduate students. Newman added that one of the purposes of the regents' January trip to California was to speak with Munger." The above was published after the university's announcement of the $110MM Munger donation to UM.

Kai Petainen

Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

Also... in case you don't know... UofM is in Los Angeles as well. So it seems quite appropriate that they would go to LA.

Kent Jocque

Tue, Feb 26, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

To Kai Petainen, I love that tool you used at to change that long web address into a much shorter web address. I'm going to start using it all the time here at to make accessing links easier for my fellow readers. -Kent

Jay Thomas

Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 10:22 p.m.

"We talked about in years to come replicating this in different parts of the country." L.A. is just one place. What I want to know is... will they all be warm places in the winter and cooler places when it gets hot? If so, many more "fun" and "fabulous nights" are in store!

Kai Petainen

Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 2:15 p.m.

sorry, link didn't work... try this

Kai Petainen

Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

I'm not speaking on behalf of the University but myself. $17,000 for the hotel sounds right and it's what I would expect. It's LA, so assume $500 per room. Assume 3 nights. 11 people. 11*500*3 = $16,500 for rooms. Assume no connecting flights. $900 per flight. Leave on a Wednesday, come back on a Sunday. $900*11 = $9900 The cost of the trip sounds right to me.


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 12:23 a.m.

The below is a list of schools with the greatest number of alums worth more than $30MM. For Michigan, 10% of that money, $7Bn or so, lives in California. I've excerpted the schools with which Michigan competes directly for faculty and research money. That alumni cluster makes a fund raising trip eminently sensible. "(NEW YORK) — The old adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know," may ring true when it comes to the universities with the largest number of wealthy alumni. Wealth-X compiled a list of the global universities with the largest number of living alumni worth $30 million or more, or ultra high net worth individuals, as they are called. "Relationships and networks are so important in terms of career path success and prosperity," said David Friedman, president of Wealth-X. Only three public universities made the top 15 list. 3. Stanford University; are worth $171 billion. 4. Columbia University; Private worth a combined $116 billion. 6. University of Chicago; are worth a combined $144 billion. 7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology; worth a collective $172 billion. 8. Yale University; worth a collective $125 billion. 9. Cornell University; worth a combined $60 billion. 10. Princeton University; worth a collective $70 billion. 11. University of Virginia; worth a total of $31 billion. 13. Northwestern University; worth $46 billion. 14. University of California, Berkeley; worth a combined $72 billion. 15. University of Michigan; worth a collective $70 billion.

Geoff Larcom

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

This is an interesting story. The reflexive reaction is to belittle the expenses related to this trip. But, as I see it, the broader reality is that such a trip helps cement trust and relationships that help U-M continue to grow and prosper and not rely on taxpayer money. It's strategically intelligent to have the governing board, the entity with ultimate authority and strategic vision, meet with accomplished donors who make sophisticated decisions on where to put their money. And this can be particularly true in a wealthy state such as California.

Michigan Man

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

Geoff - You are incorrect - California is not a wealthy state - back in the day it was - not now. Keep up with the times. Things change - Public debt in the State of California leads the nation = millions of poor people currently in the State of California.


Sun, Feb 24, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

Larcom was in sports with the Ann Arbor News for a long time, and then wrote a column for about a decade. He also covered universities. The then paper closed down.

Jay Thomas

Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 9:11 a.m.

Geoff... do you really think the timing is coincidental? It's a warm weather vacation in the middle of winter. The language you are using tells me you are an academic yourself, so this is basically "circling the wagons."


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 10:40 p.m.

All excellent points. It is always interesting to see the yahoos who PROBABLY didn't attend, who PROBABLY couldn't gain admittance who PROBABLY don't donate a nickel who PROBABLY don't have any respect for the value of education and who PROBABLY vote against education funding in general come in here to decry a trip paid for by the very donors they scorn. I suspect most of negative posters are pretty threatened in some mysterious way by the excellence with which the university is run and having found no rational basis criticism find an irrational basis. It is amazing that Michigan: 1) is considered a model of how to run a university; 2) routinely leads the nation in the ranking of schools that teaches higher education administration; 3) routinely attracts foreign educators who studies their methods; 4) routinely sends former students and administrators out to run elite entities (inter alia, 2 of the last 4 presidents of MIT); 5) has weathered one of the worst one state recessions in the nation; 6) routinely recruits Ivy and other elite academics to come to Ann Arbor, yet the pundit-ocracy on this board, in best omniscient-cabdriver mode, professes to know how to run the place more effectively. I've posted some snark on this board, but the cabdrivers on this board, in their unparalleled hubris, put my snarky comments to shame.

Kent Jocque

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 9:34 p.m.

Geoff, Thanks for chiming in. This is one of many ways the university will have to raise funds in the future. With public funds being withdrawn at an alarming rate (see today's story, we're going to have to follow the business model and get money from the private sector. -Kent

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

Regents impressed donors with how much they could drink & still stand up & how much they could get over on the tax payers

John of Saline

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

And while they're busy patting themselves on the back, maybe they could take a minute and change university policy that discriminates against military veterans:


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:38 p.m.

What was spent is peanuts for a joy ride in Disneyland. However, given that the regents are so bouyant about their closed-door, big donor-fishing success, to the point of even suggesting a re-sail, maybe their shareholders back home could know of those fat donation whales actually caught?

Jay Thomas

Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 9:03 a.m.

Really? This is TOP SECRET information? Always the same six votes down... I think they work for you know who.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

What a bunch of narrow minded posts--people who love to criticize and who can only think of their own immediate pocket books. I am glad none of them are regents. Regents have the responsibility of thinking long term and now of trying to make up for what the State of Michigan has stopped funding. The University of Michigan is recognized world wide for its excellence in both education and research, and this standing brings a considerable amount of money into Michigan through research grants and the various start-ups these grants have produced. To keep this up with the State deciding it cannot send the same amount of money, the Regents have to look to private donors to make up the difference. Do you think these donors would be impressed by a couple of regents going to see them and staying in a Motel 6? If you think this, then you do not understand the mind of the people who have the kind of money the Regents need to keep this wonderful University going, so that our children have the opportunity of attending a world class university. When you look at the various outstanding graduates this university has produced do you think this number of high caliber graduates could continue to be produced with a 3rd class, scrimping university?


Sat, Feb 23, 2013 : 12:23 a.m.

blue85 I will concede that The U of M has and will continue to graduate men and women of character that have and will make great contributions to society.I just refuse to put them all on a pedestal! And I contend that most of the successful grads would have been standouts where ever they went.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 10:29 p.m.

"high caliber U of M Grad Theodore Kaczynski better known as the Unabomber," Michigan trained Mr. Kaczynski to be a mathematician, a trade at which he was world class. Michigan did not train or encourage him to be a killer. With over 400,000 graduates out there, "tail analysis" suggests there will be a few outliers well below accepted standards and a few above well accepted standards...Raoul Wallenberg (sp?) comes to mind as a member of the latter class. But thanks for your social contribution because nothing is quite as funny as equating UM graduates in general to a serial killer.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 5:54 p.m.

One wouldn't think the high-class, wealthy UM alumi would need a personal visit from the Board of Regents to give something back to the school that gave provided the network in which to thrive, unless, of course, the UM forgot to teach the alumi about personal character. As to funding research, UM's long reach into the federal grants programs and corporate alliances bring in plenty of money, without regents making house calls.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:27 p.m.

So every Regent has to travel together at the same time with a contingent of UM brass to help them think long-term and suck up to rich alumni? It would have made more sense to send each Regent to a different part of the country to do this. They needed--collectively and in substitution for what is normally an openly held meeting--to gather in California so they could better acquaint themselves with their newest Regents while hobnobbing with rich alums. It's not like their coming back with an announcement of some huge donation or anything. It was merely a "learning" experience. If you choose to buy into this kind of malarkey so be it, but many of us have seen enough of this to realize that elected officials of a PUBLIC university should---first and foremost--be accountable to their constituents and conduct their university business in routine and open meetings in accordance with the laws of the State.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:58 p.m.

high caliber U of M Grad Theodore Kaczynski better known as the Unabomber,

Jay Thomas

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:21 p.m.

Am I the only one here that understands the utility of replacing their scheduled January meeting in COLD COLD Ann Arbor with a trip to WARM WARM Southern California (flying in to LA as pointed out by others). The timing here is NO COINCIDENCE. It's a junket folks. If I'm wrong then I'm sure we will be seeing trips to places like Boston in future during Jan/Feb. Lots of alumni there also, right?

Jay Thomas

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

"It was a great learning experience for all of us," Board of Regents chairman Laurence B. Deitch said during a Thursday meeting. "We talked about in years to come replicating this in different parts of the country." They want the university to send them all over the country... so they can learn? This is a joke, right? The people of Michigan want them in Ann Arbor MINDING THE STORE. Instead it is clear that they have "gone native" and now identify more with the administrators than the voters/ taxpayers who sent them there (even to the point of planning more junkets w/ the administration!). There is no EVIDENCE that this trip will bring in a single additional dollar to the U. But on this flimsy basis they can justify an endless number of paid for trips wherever they like (because there is bound to be an alumni there, right?). :(


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

The trip was paid for by...a donor. They are going to California to speak with/to...wait for it...donors. A recently concluded capital campaign with significant donations from...California. One of the largest alumni pools is out in...California. Michigan ranks in the top 15 for high net worth donors, many of whom live in...California. Spend about a year thinking about it and come back if you notice a pattern in the above paragraph.

Bertha Venation

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

Gee... I work for the U, and when my bosses go to Berkeley or Stanford, they always fly into San Francisco. I don't understand why the regents had to fly into LA, as it is a distance from Stanford. Can anyone clarify?

Clay Moore

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

Impressed donor's? How does that translate into actual $ donations?

tom swift jr.

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 1:48 p.m.

Welcome to Rick Snyder's Michigan. What a joke this state has become.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

I agree. There is no difference among the Regents. Ivory Tower Dem or Country Club Republican. That's why I commented that it's not a Snyder thing. You can have your opinion about Snyder and most all of us do, but it's not like the UM Regents were champions of austerity and transparency prior to Snyder's election.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

They are mostly democrats but I don't see any difference between the regents on issues like this.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:31 p.m.

BTW, Ivory Tower Democrats are totally different from blue-collar Democrats. Blue collar Democrats (and Republicans) loved freedom, individual responsibility, equal opportunity. and fought for protection from institutionalized corporatism and graft. Sadly, though, Washington is full of the Ivory Tower kind.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

What does this have to do with Snyder? The Regents are mostly Democrats. Ivory tower Democrats. You can tell because they are very self-important and very self-indulgent and love to conceal anything that could be interpreted as negative about themselves. But, sometimes, the urge to gloat becomes too great...

Nick Danger

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

The rich hanging out with the rich. How can I joing the vacation team.I would have been more inpressed if they had stayed at a motel 6 and ate fast food


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 10:21 p.m.

"How can I joing the vacation team." Go to university, receive (more commonly than not) an advanced degree, become active in the community, win the respect of your peers, stand for election, spend hours serving in a position which earns you a sum of money far below your fair market potential. Oh, my mistake, I now realize that you were kidding and don't have ANY of the attributes required for one of these positions (regent or senior admin.). In which case I'll suggest that you start learning how to type a bit more accurately.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

You don't expect our regents to stay at a Holiday Inn, now do you?

Morris Thorpe

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

I don't think it's the travel that bothers people. It's the tone-deafness. This first-class-all-the-way trip is taken while students and parents struggle to meet tuition costs. Quick math: $1,212 in travel expenses per person? I'm seeing round-trip tickets from DTW to LAX for under $500 (and that's right now without advance purchase or anything.) Must they fly first class and take limos to the hotel? What's wrong with sitting with the lower castes and then taking a taxi? And $17K in hotel costs for two days? Come on, man!

Kent Jocque

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 9:27 p.m.

To blue85, You hit the nail on the head. $27,200 (the cost of the trip) is chump change for a wealthy donor. This trip has the potential to pay for itself many times over. -Kent


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

All the costs that you enumerate were paid for by donors. You are looking at the expense, but don't have any grasp on the potential marginal is probable that one marginal donation will pay for multiples of the expense of this trip, which is probably why the donor(s) funded it to begin with.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

I won't say the trip wasn't successful. It probably was. I will say students don't get to grade their own papers.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

Regents, impress the residents of the State of Michigan now by releasing more endowment dollars for full scholarships.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

Sounds like it was a great trip!


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 11:42 a.m.

"Regents impressed donors!" Wow, the Regents impressed someone. That's a first! Dietch also noted: "It was very important [for donors] to see the governance of the university in action," Perhaps it would be just as important for the Regents of a publicly-owned university to impress the electorate of the State of Michigan and to let us see the governance in action. Or, will the closed-door policy for what is normally one of the 11 annual Regental meetings be the new normal? I find it incredible to believe that this doesn't violate the spirit of the Open Meetings Act even if the UM General Counsel's office could find some very narrow and technical loophole. Perhaps, if General Counsel looked less closely at Open Meeting Act loopholes and more closely at actions at the Hospital General Counsel's office pedophiles wouldn't escape arrest and prosecution for months while a complainant is belittled by a Hospital Atty until a similar scandal occurs at Penn State or some other institution. Maybe it's in that report the Regents ordered? Oh, I forgot. We can't look at that either because of "attorney-client" privilege. Yes, I'm glad that someone was impressed with these Regents and that someone got to see them in action. Too bad you have to live in California and donate millions to do so.

Linda Peck

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 11:21 a.m.

I just don't even know what to say.

Jay Thomas

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

Yes, but one event was a "fun," "fabulous night" during which a U-M student music group performed. The fun factor alone makes it all worthwhile....


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

I do - Mary Sue - what a waste of $$. But when Mary Sue and everyone are so well off - waste is expected and felt as deserving - I love the comment - Laurence B. Deitch. "We talked about in years to come replicating this in different parts of the country." - more $$ wasted - more junkets - this is a better job than a politician.