Helping Hand

Philanthropists, many of them with personal attachments to hospitals, lend their names to wings and centers, but their giving spirit goes beyond bricks and mortar


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U-M Rachel Upjohn Building
U-M Rachel Upjohn Building

From the volunteers who circulate mail carts to major financial donors, hospitals are indebted to the giving spirit of the community they help heal.
In metro Detroit, the names of philanthropists adorn hospital buildings, wings, and art installations. Often, the donors are the same prominent citizens who help keep metro Detroit’s community traditions and cultural gems afloat. Others make gifts to hospitals in thanks for personal care. Here’s a sampling of just a few charitable donations that serve as prescriptions for the well-being of our medical institutions.


Shortly after he was born, Earl Stilson underwent the first of 10 surgeries needed to open his eyes, which were fused shut at birth. The memory of that, as well as additional orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation, left a lifelong impression. He recalls being frightened, but well cared for by the staff at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. Six decades later, Stilson, a successful entrepreneur, donated funds to build a specialty center for DMC/Children’s Hospital of Michigan Stilson Specialty Center in Clinton Township. Stilson owns Marine Sales and Repair and a number of other businesses and real-estate ventures.

The DMC Rehabilitation Institute’s Mike Utley Center for Human Performance bears the name of Utley, a former Detroit Lions’ offensive guard who was paralyzed during an NFL game in 1991. The center was opened earlier this year with funding from the Mike Utley Foundation. It features a biofeedback laboratory, one of only two in the Midwest that offers biofeedback therapy for people with orthopedic and neurological conditions such as spinal-cord injury, brain injury, stroke, and cerebral palsy.

The DMC Rehabilitation Institute’s Brasza Outpatient Center was named after Henry and Marie Brasza, owners of a small parts metal-manufacturing company. Henry was a therapy patient at the institute in 1976. While recuperating from surgery for lung cancer, he was told he might never regain the use of his left arm, his family says. Through rehab, however, he regained most of his mobility. His daughter, Marie Brasza-Pinch, says her father wanted to invest in the people who helped him. 

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is named in memory of the late wife of Peter Karmanos Jr., chairman and CEO of Compuware. She died of breast cancer in 1989 at age 46. Karmanos gave $15 million to the cancer research, patient care, and education partnership that was formed a year earlier by the Michigan Cancer Foundation, the Meyer L. Prentis Comprehensive Cancer Center of Metropolitan Detroit, The Detroit Medical Center, and Wayne State University.


C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is named for Flint auto pioneer and philanthropist Charles Stewart Mott who, in 1965, gave U-M a $6.5-million gift to help open its first children’s hospital. Four decades later, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation gave U-M a $25-million gift toward the construction of a new children’s hospital and women’s hospital facility, which will retain the name C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital. The new facility is scheduled to open in 2011.

A. Alfred Taubman, a graduate of the University of Michigan (the College of Architecture and Urban Planning bears his name), was the major donor to the A. Alfred Taubman Health Center, which is home to numerous outpatient clinics.

U-M’s Rachel Upjohn Building houses the university’s Depression Center and outpatient psychiatry/addiction services. It’s named for Rachel Mary (Upjohn) Meader, the granddaughter of Dr. William E. Upjohn, a 19th-century U-M Medical School graduate who invented the first pill that dissolved easily in the human body. Upjohn co-founded, with his brothers, the Upjohn Co. Meader and her husband, Edwin, gave $10 million to the Depression Center.

And the Danto Auditorium inside U-M Hospital’s new Cardiovascular Center is named for its $2-million benefactor Marvin Danto, Michigan Design Center founder. Danto and his wife, Betty, contributed, in part, because he was grateful for the care he has received from the center’s co-director, Dr. Kim Eagle.


Often, doctors provide more than health care. The Ellis Siefer, D.O., Surgical Services Pavilion at Botsford is named for Dr. Siefer and his wife, Mary, who have been donors to Botsford. Dr. Siefer, who is 90 and retired, was the hospital’s first director of surgical services and chairman of the Department of Surgery beginning in 1965.


Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor philanthropists have included:

Judy Dow (Alexander) Rumelhart (the Robert H. and Judy Dow Alexander Cancer Care Center; she is the granddaughter of the founder of Dow Chemical); Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley (the Senior Health Building, named for the couple — she was the daughter of the founder of Dow Chemical); and the Ellen Thompson Women’s Health Center, underwritten by Ellen and Bob Thompson. He is the founder of Thompson-McCully Co.

St. Joseph Mercy Woodland Health Center’s Warren R. and Lauraine A. Hoenshied Cancer Center stands in memory of Warren and in honor of Lauraine, whose sister died of cancer. 

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