Ferris State University alumnus Matt Nawrocki believes in the mission of the Jim Crow Museum and an expanded, future standalone facility on the Big Rapids campus.
Nawrocki, a member of The Ferris Foundation’s Board of Directors, made a gift of $10,000 toward the future Jim Crow Museum, Archive and Research Facility. The gift was an incentive for others to give to support the museum project while inspiring others to donate. Nawrocki’s support is nearly two years in the making. While touring campus with his son in March 2021, Nawrocki toured the current Jim Crow Museum inside the Ferris Library for Information Technology and Education (FLITE). He noted the impact that tour had on him.
“It had a profound impact on me. I knew immediately that the JCM is the epitome of Education. How appropriate that Ferris State was given this gift to be both the guardian and protector of this historic material. I also know that the JCM is much bigger than just another university building or just another museum. It is a profound and shocking museum. It is both enlightening and horrific. It is breathtaking and heart-stopping,” he said. “It brought both tears and heartbreak. To me, it was a light shined upon a dark period. When things are brought to light from darkness, I believe it then is given an opportunity for acknowledging, understanding, educating, forgiving and healing.”
In reflecting upon that tour, Nawrocki considered the words of one of the founders of Ferris State University, former president Woodbridge N. Ferris.
“Woodbridge Ferris was the visionary and would have been so proud to see the JCM home is at the center of campus,” said Nawrocki, a 1995 graduate of Ferris’ College of Engineering Technology and a 2016 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award. “His quote, ‘My Plea in Michigan and it will be my plea to the last breath I draw, and the last word I speak – is education for all children, all men and all women of Michigan, all the people in all our states all the time.’ How apropos these visionary words were from the founder of our beloved University and are still today in regards to the JCM.”
In building momentum to a 2025 date for the opening of the future museum, Nawrocki’s embrace of the Jim Crow Museum’s nearly two decades of work is garnering recognition. Ferris State University Vice President for Diversity, Inclusion, and Strategic Initiatives David Pilgrim, the founder and director of the museum, expressed his gratitude to Nawrocki for his generous support and appreciation for the Jim Crow Museum’s mission.
“I hope that Matt Nawrocki knows how much his gift means to me and to everyone working to build a new Jim Crow Museum,” Pilgrim said. “His generosity brings us closer to building what will be one of the outstanding museums in the nation – a place where people come to have intelligent and nuanced discussions about race relations. Thank you, Matt.”
Learn more about the Jim Crow Museum expansion project, which will offer expanded opportunities to use contemporary and historical objects to tell the story of the resilience of African Americans.
Individuals and organizations interested in supporting the museum can do so here.