Wayne State University in Detroit has announced a $10 million gift from entrepreneur and philanthropist Mort Harris for a program that addresses health disparities among the nation's most vulnerable populations.
Awarded as part of the university's $750 million Pivotal Moments campaign, the gift will create the Mort Harris Med-Direct Scholars program in support of the university's competitive Wayne Med-Direct program, which recruits students from disadvantaged backgrounds and simultaneously admits them into its undergraduate program and the School of Medicine with full scholarships.
In 1939, Harris began taking engineering classes at what was then Wayne University but left during World War II to become a pilot in the U.S. Air Force; in November, he was inducted into the French Legion of Honor, France's highest order of merit, in recognition of his service. After the war, Harris co-founded American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc. in Detroit and, as it became successful, began to give back to the city, including philanthropic investments in Wayne State that today total more than $17 million. In 1970, he established the Edith Harris Memorial Scholarship in the School of Social Work in honor of his first wife, who also attended Wayne State. Harris and his second wife, Brigitte, continued to support a lecture series in the School of Social Work and scholarships for students in the College of Engineering, along with the Damon J. Keith Collection at the Law School and numerous other university initiatives. Their support also led, in 2003, to the opening of the Mort Harris Recreation and Fitness Center and the creation, in 2012, of the Mort Harris Endowed Scholarship Fund in the School of Medicine and the Mort Harris Office for Adult Literacy Endowment Fund.
"This investment will educate generations of future healthcare leaders in Detroit," said Wayne State president M. Roy Wilson. "Mort Harris is one of Wayne State's greatest champions, and the Mort Harris Med-Direct Scholars will be hard workers and big thinkers with a commitment to health equity. We are so thankful for Mort's generosity."