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Couple's Gift Helps Brain Tumor Center

Professor Emeritus Diane Kordich (Art and Design) and Russell Magnaghi (History) epitomize the valuable role faculty and staff can play in Northern’s comprehensive fundraising efforts. The couple has contributed a series of financial gifts over the years that fulfill the needs of students and research in different departments.

Their most recent and substantial gift went to the Upper Michigan Brain Tumor Center. Established in 2005, the Center combines the clinical expertise of Marquette General Hospital with science research conducted in an NMU lab staffed by undergraduate students and master’s degree candidates. The lab’s focus is on glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and aggressive cancerous brain tumor. Kordich took a tour of the lab in May, guided by Rob WinnJohn Lawrence (Biology) and five students.

“I was so impressed by the research they are doing, sometimes even as freshmen,” she said. “It is very important work--that has practical implications for brain tumor patients. I asked many questions during the tour.  I told Dr. Winn to put together a list of the UMBTC’s most needed equipment and the costs.  It surprised me that these small vials that are used cost $500 each. Then, I discussed it with Russ. The University’s has been good to us, so we should do something for the Center.  Russ said to give the Center what they need, so we did. I look for university programs that are doing really great things and make Northern respected throughout the country. Some of the programs are writing grants or cobbling together resources to replace or purchase the equipment they need to function. It became more of a challenge when budget cuts eliminated departmental funding for equipment and maintenance.”

Magnaghi had his opportunity to visit the lab during a Homecoming tour of campus. “The research they’re doing is extremely important, not only for the university and hospital, but the whole cancer issue. When you have an academic, scientific program doing fantastic work, it’s going to become well known. Students are coming here because they’ve heard about it.  Students who’ve graduated from the program are now in research positions and can give back to the center.  It has created a tremendous exchange of scientific knowledge and the hands-on experience is extremely important for students, especially Undergrads. It feeds on itself and builds.”

Helping the UMBTC is only the latest example of the couple’s generosity. While still working at NMU, Kordich recruited colleagues, both faculty and staff in Art and Design, to contribute to the Art Museum Endowment when the university was providing matching funds and before the DeVos family donated a million dollars for the museum endowment.

In the past, they have donated funds for the Roberta Ameen and the Lake Superior Art Association Scholarships. They also doubled the endowment they originally established for the Grace H. Magnaghi Visiting Research Grant, named for Russ’ late mother, which supports fellowships for researchers in residence at the Central Upper Peninsula and NMU Archives. Last year, the couple provided financial assistance to the Hospitality Management program to purchase small appliances/equipment for the kitchen and items to enhance Chez Nous restaurant. In addition, Recreational Services benefited from funding to purchase strength-training and exercise equipment.