Jean Elder has been a high-profile advocate of children and families, the elderly and disabled, and under-served populations. During her 40-year career in health and human services, Elder has worked to improve people’s lives through public policies and philanthropy. Her most recent philanthropic effort will help Ferris State University students seeking a career in pharmacy.
Elder created an endowment fund to provide scholarships to students working toward a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. The Jean K. Elder Pharmacy Scholarship Endowment will be awarded annually to a full-time student based on financial need.
Elder, whose professional experience includes service in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan’s Department of Education and Department of Community Health, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service by Ferris in 1987. She was tapped to join The Ferris Foundation Board of Directors in 2010.
“Having served three-plus years on the Foundation board, it’s become very apparent that most Ferris students need scholarship help,” said Elder, who chairs the foundation’s Strategic Planning Task Force. “Clearly, we want Ferris State University to continue to attract and retain students of high academic skill and personal merit. I established the scholarship to do just that: attract and assist deserving students in the College of Pharmacy.”
Elder has deep Michigan roots, from earning three degrees from the University of Michigan – culminating in a Ph.D. in education and psychology – and serving on faculty at various Michigan universities prior to her appointment by President Ronald Reagan as commissioner and assistant secretary for the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It was then that Elder spearheaded the Supported Employment initiative, her most proud public policy achievement, she said. Supported employment is based on the principle that individuals with disabilities have the right to be employed by community businesses where they can earn comparable wages, work side-by-side with coworkers with or without disabilities, and experience the same benefits as other employees of the company. The resulting legislative changes enabled states to partner with industry to provide employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as a funded component of vocational rehabilitation and similar programs.
“I have always been guided by that belief that every life has equal value,” Elder said. “I aspire to help all people lead a healthy, productive life based on the core values of self-determination, independence, productivity, integration and inclusion in all facets of the community.”
She returned to Michigan from Washington, D.C. in 1990, and served five years as deputy director of the state’s department of community health. Since 1995, she has held senior management positions for the Council and Accreditation for Children and Family Services in New York, and Maximus, Inc. in Reston, Va.
In 2006, she established J.K. Elder and Associates in Ann Arbor. The firm’s clients are state and county human series departments, and non-profits across the country. While that work keeps her busy and energized, Elder is passionate about her position with The Ferris Foundation, which provides scholarship assistance to students and financial support for faculty and staff research and service.
“As board members, our job is to raise money for the university. We know that private support has become a critically-important part of the equation leading to excellence at any university,” said Elder, whose daughter-in-law, Jodie, is an associate professor in the College of Pharmacy. “In terms of what the Foundation does, the scholarship endowment is a wonderful legacy as it advances the mission of The Ferris Foundation.”
Elder’s gift “reflects her deep interest and investment in development of individuals, both personally and professionally,” said Stephen Durst, dean of the College of Pharmacy.
“The investment in a pharmacy student also brings with it the added benefit for society, providing a medication expert for a society that is becoming increasingly dependent on medications and their beneficial effects in controlling or reversing disease,” Durst said. “The fact that Dr. Elder is not an alumna of the college makes her commitment even more meaningful.”
The endowed scholarship will reduce the burden of educational loans needed by the recipient and allow for heighted focus on their studies and the development of practice skills, Durst said.
“Most importantly, it demonstrates to the recipient that they are not alone in their ‘pharmacy journey’ – that there are individuals eager to support them in their pursuit of a career in pharmacy,” he said.
The College of Pharmacy’s scholarship selection committee in conjunction with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid will determine the Elder scholarship recipient. Funds will be credited to the recipient’s student account for tuition, fees, room and board, and other education-related expenses.
More than half of all pharmacists practicing in Michigan are Ferris graduates. They are employed in every type of pharmacy practice and at every level of the pharmaceutical sciences. For additional information on the program, visit here.
For more information about the Elder scholarship or to make a contribution, contact The Ferris Foundation at (231) 591-2365 or [email protected].