Gift from William Pickard supports four new spaces in the School of Social Work

Though William F. Pickard made his mark in business, his career started in social work. Before he became chairman and CEO of Global Automotive Alliance LLC and Vitec LLC, and was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to be the first chairman of the African Development Foundation, he became a faculty member at the Wayne State University School of Social Work.

“Social work is an intricate part of my life,” said Pickard. “That’s my DNA.”

To honor his commitment to the profession and Wayne State’s role in educating social workers, Pickard donated $125,000, which was given to the school by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan from the Pickard Family Fund, which it administers. The funds will support the renovation of the School of Social Work’s new home, located in the former Detroit Institute for Children building at 5447 Woodward Avenue.

School of Social Work Dean Cheryl Waites thanked Pickard for his investment in social work education stating, “Bill’s generous gift supports world-class social workers who will be educated right here in the heart of our city and region,” said Waites. “He’s established a lifetime mission of helping others, and that really defines him.”

In recognition of the gift, the school has named four spaces in honor of individuals who have encouraged and inspired Pickard throughout his life and career. These renewed spaces provide advanced learning and research opportunities for social work students and greater opportunities for community engagement. The rooms are:

  • The William H. and Victoria Pickard Lounge, will be named for Pickard’s parents, who nurtured and inspired their son’s success. They moved their family to Flint, introducing their son to the automotive world. While they worked on the assembly line at General Motor, Pickard attended school and began what was to become a long and successful road leading to multiple advanced degrees, including an MSW, great success in the business world, and a lifelong interest in giving back.
  • The Paul L. Hubbard Conference Room, named for the past director of economic development for the City of Toledo, former president of New Detroit, currently a consultant at Trivium Partners LLC, and a friend of Pickard. Hubbard earned his Master of Social Work from Wayne State in 1971 and serves on the school’s Board of Visitors.
  • The Maribodine Robinson Doctoral Research Room, named for the women’s suffrage and civil rights activist, and a friend and mentor to Pickard. In 2015, at the age of 105 and just months before her passing, Robinson received the Distinguished Warrior award from the Urban League of Detroit and Southeastern Michigan. She received a Bachelor of Science and a master’s degree in chemistry from The Ohio State University, where Pickard earned his Ph.D.
  • The Nick Scheele and Gary L. White Technology Conference Room and Research Lab, named for former executives at Ford Motor Company, as well as friends and mentors to Pickard. Sir Nicholas Scheele, who passed away in 2014, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001 for saving the Jaguar brand. Gary L. White was director of minority business development at Ford.

The university recognized the gift with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the rooms on June 5, 2017. Attendees included honorees Paul Hubbard and Gary White, family members of Nick Scheele and Maribodine Robinson, and members of the social work community. The program featured guest speakers, as well as an impromptu appearance by civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson.

“I’m just delighted to be here today to surprise my friend Bill Pickard,” said Jackson. “This investment is the highest and best use of money. Bill, you deserve to be rich, because you enrich the rest of us.”

The large gathering at the ceremony demonstrated the impact Pickard has had on others, including Gary White and Paul Hubbard who expressed their admiration and respect for Pickard.

“Dr. Bill Pickard has demonstrated, as an entrepreneur, the true purpose of America’s corporations’ efforts in setting up a diversified supplier base and searching for ways to support urban communities where the minority population has access to training and good, taxpaying jobs,” White said. “My associates at Ford Motor Company and I are proud to have played a role in Bill Pickard’s success and his ‘giving back’ to the community as demonstrated in his latest activity at Wayne State University.”

Hubbard called it an honor to be represented at the university that both “prepared and propelled” him toward success.

“None of my career accomplishments would have been possible without the academic and hands-on training I received at Wayne State,” Hubbard said. “The profession of social work is more important now than ever before. Social workers are needed to solve social problems but also to empower people to solve them on their own.”

In his remarks, Pickard reflected on the path that led him to the day and offered gratitude to his former employer.

“There’s a lot of talk in life about finding yourself, but a great author said, ‘You don’t find yourself, you create yourself,’” Pickard said. “I’d like to say to Wayne State and the School of Social Work, thanks for helping me create the Bill Pickard I like and love.”


Photos from the event are available on the Wayne State University School of Social Work Flickr page.

For additional information on the Wayne State University School of Social Work Pivotal Moments Campaign, contact Jana McNair, Director of Philanthropy, at or visit us online.

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150 years in the heart of Detroit