Lifelong educator leaves behind permanent fund for scholarships
For years to come, students at Wayne State University’s College of Education will be grateful to an alumnus who thought about them when he was making his final estate plans.
It was a bittersweet surprise when the college received an unexpected $437,946 from the personal estate of Gordon Draper (‘56, ‘64, ‘68) after he passed away in late 2020 at the age of 85. The gift came with instructions to add it to a previous $100,000 unrestricted gift, combining them to establish an endowed fund for merit scholarships.
Interest earnings from the donation will allow the Gordon Wesley Draper ‘56 ‘64 ‘68 Endowed Scholarship to continue helping students achieve their academic goals — forever.
"Gordon Draper was an educator through and through, and he loved supporting future teachers," said Boris Baltes, interim dean of the College of Education. "Our students benefited from his giving spirit for many years, and they will continue to benefit long into the future. We are forever indebted to Gordon for his generosity."
Thrice educated at Wayne State, Draper earned his B.S. in elementary social studies education. During his first week as a teacher with the Detroit Public Schools, Draper was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1957 and served two years of active duty in Germany as a reporter and photographer for his infantry division's newspaper. He retained his interest in photography throughout his life.
Upon release from active duty, Draper used the GI Bill to fund his master’s in geography. He later returned to the university to earn an educational specialist certificate in elementary administration.
Draper was a beloved educator in Livonia Public Schools, where he taught for decades and served for 21 years as a principal.
Julie Pomerville is among the hundreds of students and fellow educators who felt Draper's positive impact.
"Mr. Draper was my favorite principal,” she said. “He always made things fun, and he was always quick with a smile and a laugh.”
Draper was also a devoted Wayne State University alumnus who regularly attended student award ceremonies and events at the College of Education.
Bridgette Berry is pursuing an education specialist certificate in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in bilingual education. She expressed gratitude at being awarded a Gordon Wesley Draper Endowed Scholarship for the 2022-23 academic year.
“Being a teacher is something I have always dreamed of doing, and I cannot imagine doing anything else,” said Berry. “As a teacher of English language learners, I try to incorporate artifacts from the country they are from and use them to connect prior knowledge to what we are learning. I am so thankful for this scholarship, as it gives me the opportunity to get certified in the content area that will better meet the needs of my students.”
Draper had many passions and community service roles that enriched his career in education — including 68 years of service to the Boy Scouts of America, and longstanding terms as chair of the City of Livonia Youth Commission and as Livonia’s traffic commissioner. A travel enthusiast, he explored 125 countries and visited every single one of the 3,141 counties in the United States, and his students and colleagues fondly remember the tales of his adventures.
"One of the best decisions I ever made was to become a teacher," said Draper in his gift instructions to establish the endowed scholarship. "The education I received at Wayne was instrumental in my success as an educator. I thoroughly enjoyed my career."