Alumna's Love for Wayne State Reflected in Impactful Estate Gift

Betty Neitzel

Betty Jane Neitzel, as pictured in "The Griffin," the 1949 yearbook of Wayne State University. Courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library.

Betty Jane Neitzel was a proud and grateful alumna of Wayne State University. Until her death in April 2015, she often attended alumni events near her home in the Washington, D.C. area. Those who knew her say that receiving a Wayne State education was a pivotal moment in Neitzel's life, as she often expressed gratitude for the opportunities it provided.

Still, it was a surprise to many in the psychology department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences when Neitzel's estate plan included a gift of more than $700,000 to support the department.

"We had no idea that she was leaving money to the department," said Professor Boris Baltes, chair of the Department of Psychology. "It was definitely a nice surprise."

Neitzel earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Wayne State in 1949 and graduated with her master of science in industrial and organizational psychology two years later. She credited the affordable education she received at Wayne State with helping propel her career success, first at the National Bank of Detroit and later, after a move to California, at the Stanford Research Institute.

The majority of Neitzel's gift will be invested as an endowed fund, which will provide the psychology department with approximately $20,000 each year. Baltes said the department will use those funds to support one faculty research award totaling $15,000 each year, plus a $1,000 annual prize to honor an outstanding graduate student in the industrial and organizational psychology Ph.D. program.

The endowed fund will preserve Neitzel's original gift, creating pivotal moments for future generations of students and researchers through investment earnings.

"For our department, this award is the first of this magnitude," Baltes said. "We do think it's going to help with faculty recruitment and retention, and obviously faculty research productivity."

Baltes said the research awards will be distributed each year through an application and review process within the department. He expects the funds will offer established faculty members the flexibility required to pursue new directions in their research.

Betty Neitzel left Wayne State nearly 65 years before her death, but her love for the university remained with her. Her generous contribution leaves a legacy that students and faculty will honor through their scholarship for years to come.

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