Couple's $1 Million Gift Supports Study Abroad Experiences for U.P. Students

Upper Peninsula natives Gloria and Bill Jackson have established a $1 million endowment through the Northern Michigan University Foundation. The gift will ultimately fund study abroad experiences for one student from each of the 15 U.P. counties each year.

The Jacksons live in Arizona, the headquarters of their CableAmerica Corp. They also own a home in Eagle Harbor, Mich.

Gloria, whose maiden name is Jussila, graduated from NMU in 1968. She said she was motivated to create the Jackson Scholars Study Abroad Endowment at her alma mater after talking with NMU President Les Wong about the university’s “Road Map to 2015” strategic plan and its emphasis on providing more international experiences for NMU students.

“I thought it was great,” she said. “It’s exactly the kind of thing we believe in and we wanted to support that. The world is shrinking. It is critical to have some exposure to other cultures, whether you work for a company with a presence overseas or you work and live in the United States alongside people from other countries.”

The Jacksons represent what Gloria describes as an “equal-opportunity marriage involving a Northern accountant from Marquette and a Michigan Tech engineer from Laurium.” They have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to higher education in the Upper Peninsula with previously established scholarships at both institutions.

According to the NMU Foundation, the value of their latest gift cannot be overestimated. More than three quarters of NMU students qualify for need-based aid. Many lack the personal or family resources to shoulder costs associated with international academic and service opportunities. Martha Haynes, NMU Foundation executive director, said the Jacksons have been tireless advocates for the vital role of experiences abroad in preparing students to compete in the global marketplace.

“They are dedicated to the belief that international experiences will help students acquire the adaptability, self-­confidence, global context and intellectual, personal and social growth necessary to succeed and to open new paths to a better future at home and abroad,” Haynes added. “This endowment is an incredibly generous gift that will provide a solid financial underpinning for internationalization at NMU and life-transforming opportunities for our students.”

Gloria maintains ties to her alma mater by serving on the NMU Foundation Board of Trustees. She was recently was the keynote speaker and honorary degree recipient at December commencement.

Her interest in global issues, particularly international education, has escalated through her appointment as the Honorary Consul of Finland to the State of Arizona and her involvement with the Thunderbird School of Global Management's Global Council.

One of Thunderbird’s programs, Project Artemis, offers an intensive two-week business training program for women from Afghanistan. Jackson sponsored one of the participants last fall.

“It’s amazing to hear the Afghan women talk about the conditions they live under, even after Taliban rule ended,” she said. “Several in the program spoke fluent English because they were from upper-class families and went to private schools to learn English. A previous graduate who runs an embroidery business called Kandahar Treasures hired 500 women to do handwork in their homes and sells the items worldwide. She told me that 99 percent of her employees are illiterate.

“The intricate work takes their minds off the situation. They earn about 20 U.S. dollars per month, which goes a long way toward improving their living conditions. Their courage is inspiring and they are helping to rebuild Afghanistan one woman-owned business at a time.” 

The Jacksons’ professional journey has included several business enterprises: electronic parts distributor, industrial equipment sales, antenna installation, a local origination TV station and a gourmet cookware store. They entered the cable TV industry in 1971, when the U.S. Air Force decided that the government-operated cable TV system at K.I. Sawyer should be run by a private contractor and the Jacksons submitted the winning bid. That was the beginning of CableAmerica, which later relocated to Arizona.


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Updated: February 5, 2009

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