Wayne State University

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School of Social Work receives largest-ever donation, will establish scholarship named for donor

April 26, 2016

The Wayne State School of Social Work has received a gift to create a new scholarship for high-achieving students experiencing financial hardship. The donation is the largest gift from an alumnus in the school’s history.

Betty Appich, who received her Bachelor of Social Work from Wayne State in 1982 on a full scholarship, made the gift with her husband, Horst Appich. The Betty Schmalzle-Appich and Horst G. Appich Endowed Scholarship will be available to any social work student (B.S.W., M.S.W., or Ph.D.) with a 3.0 GPA or higher who demonstrates financial need.

Betty and Horst decided to make the donation to the school in honor of Betty’s grandparents, Rudolf Keller and Maria Hutzel­Keller. A member of the French Underground movement who survived incarceration in a World War II work camp in Germany, Rudolf and Maria raised Betty until sending her to America at age 12 to join family and enjoy greater opportunities.

“My grandparents instilled in me a very strong sense of being responsible for my existence, in the sense that my worth is based on whether I’ve made the world a better place,” said Betty, noting that Rudolf and Maria never realized their dream of moving to the United States because Rudolf contracted tuberculosis during the war and consequently was not allowed to immigrate. “Though not social workers themselves, they were special people who loved community and exemplified all of the values of my social work education.”

After marrying Horst at a young age and raising their daughter for several years, Betty decided to pursue a college education. She received a full scholarship to attend Wayne County Community College, where an influential counselor encouraged her to consider a career in social work. After obtaining an associate’s degree, she was admitted to the Wayne State School of Social Work on a full ride and received field training in group and family social work at Catholic Social Services in Westland and Detroit’s Brightmoor Community Center. She credits the encouragement she received from Phyllis Vroom, the faculty member who served as her field advisor, with helping her persevere in her social work education. Vroom would later become dean of the School of Social Work and deputy president of Wayne State University.

“Without my scholarship, I would have had second thoughts about earning my bachelor’s degree because of the financial pressures it would have placed on my young family,” said Betty about her motivation to fund a social work scholarship. “I believe there are a lot of people who can be a benefit to society with the right education and training, but without a hand financially they can’t realize their potential to help others.”

Betty, who went on to earn a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan, worked with troubled families at Brightmoor Community Center and Northwest Guidance Clinic before finishing her career at Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital, where she helped implement innovative models for group and family practice and was honored by the State of Michigan for her service. She said she and Horst “never made a whole lot of money,” and believes that wealth is not a prerequisite for generosity.

“We were frugal,” Betty said of her and Horst, who retired from a career with Ford Motor Company that began with an entry-level job on the assembly line. “The money we are giving the School of Social Work has been earned and saved. I feel good about the path we chose, because having a sense of peace in the decision to give to others is worth more to me than having a piece of something material.”

 
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