LSA graduate Tom Tuft invests in future policy leaders

June 10, 2021

By David Pratt

New gift will support PPIA and the Conversations Across Differences initiative

Tom Tuft
Tom Tuft

Tom Tuft (LSA ‘69), discovered Ann Arbor when he came from Pennsylvania to visit his sister in Detroit. “I thought Michigan would be a special place to go to school,” he says, and so it was, though Tuft does not recall, at the time, being aware of the Institute of Public Administration, located then in Haven Hall.

It would be some years before Tuft, an avid football fan with an interest in government affairs (he majored in economics at Michigan), would attend a U-M tailgate and meet Michael S. Barr, dean of what had become, of course, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. “I thought Michael was a very special person,” Tuft recalls. “His thinking was very much in line with my own.” Tuft, a senior advisor at Arsenal Capital Partners in New York City, had been looking “to find an avenue to be helpful to the University of Michigan.” After Tuft met Barr, funding programs at the Ford School quickly “made a lot of sense.”

Tuft says of his giving, which has included Boys and Girls Harbor in New York City and Cornell University, which his daughter attended, “It all centers on support for young people who deserve but who don’t have. Educational opportunities for those who have been deprived for socioeconomic reasons is one of my top motivators.”

One particular Ford School program, the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute, drew Tuft’s attention, as its mission is similar to a program he funded at Cornell. The Institute is an intensive, seven-week, all-expenses-paid course that prepares diverse cohorts of undergraduates from across the country for graduate programs in public policy and international affairs. Coursework includes modules on statistics, microeconomics, policy analysis, and writing. Among the Institute’s many distinguished alumni is David C. Wilson, the newly appointed dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tuft has also dedicated a portion of his gift to the Ford School’s Conversations Across Differences program. “There is a huge political divide right now in this country,” Tuft says, “an overemphasis on the extremes on both sides.” Conversations Across Differences includes policy lectures and debates, such as a recent dialogue with Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI 8th District) and Peter Meijer (R-MI 3rd District). The initiative also has a curricular component that helps to develop students’ own abilities to bridge differences.

Says Dean Barr, “Our nation needs diverse policy leaders with the analytic skills, knowledge, and ability to listen and talk across differences—to solve problems. We need to invest in their future, as we do through the Ford School’s PPIA Junior Summer Institute and Conversations Across Differences. Tom’s gift helps on both fronts, and it reflects his deep and abiding love for U-M.

Ford School PPIA fellows, summer 2014
Ford School PPIA fellows, summer 2014

PPIA milestone

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Public Policy & International Affairs (PPIA) program, which was designed to build diversity in public service. The Ford School has proudly supported PPIA since its inception in 1981. We’ve been one of just a handful of policy schools to host the educational initiative every summer, and have grown our enrollment in recent years.

Did you attend a PPIA Junior Summer Institute in Ann Arbor or elsewhere? We’d love to hear from you. Please click here to tell us what you’ve been up to. We’ll send a commemorative gift!

We welcome gifts to support the PPIA program in its 40th year.

Below, find the full, formatted Spring 2021 edition of State & Hill.

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