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Updated 3:00 PM May 2, 2005




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Erb family gives $10M to develop
ecologically and socially responsible business

Fred and Barbara Erb have provided a $10 million gift to significantly enhance the research and education initiatives of U-M's Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. The program is a partnership between the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources & Environment (SNRE).

The $10 million builds upon two earlier gifts of $5 million each from the Erbs, representing the largest known commitment to a university for interdisciplinary teaching and research in the area of global sustainable enterprise. This field explores how organizations throughout the world can achieve long-term success by harmonizing economic, environmental and social interests.

"We want to create a new generation of leaders who will consider the big picture of our world and who have the protection of the environment as a primary part of their thinking and planning," Barbara Erb says. Fred Erb adds, "If we can raise the next generation of business leaders to think about environmental protection as an essential long-term investment—and not a cost to be avoided—we will have taken a major step forward."

The gift from the Erbs advances the University's $2.5 billion The Michigan Difference campaign and makes it possible to increase the size of the Erb Institute MBA/MS Program. Already the largest of its kind with 48 students, the program will grow to 75 students who simultaneously earn master's degrees from SNRE and the school of business.

The integrated three-year program has produced more than 80 graduates to date who work within the business, nonprofit and government sectors. These leaders focus on a wide range of issues including clean technologies and draw upon their interdisciplinary training to develop and implement innovative and practicable methods for cultivating a sustainable future.

The gift also will allow the institute to expand its efforts in the area of research. President Mary Sue Coleman says, "This generous new gift will allow the institute to fund Ph.D students, postdoctoral fellows and important research collaborations with faculty in such diverse areas as business, environmental science, engineering, public health and public policy, to discover and disseminate the leading-edge research required to address the complex issues that matter so much to the health of our planet."

Robert Dolan, dean of the Ross School of Business, said the Erbs' vision and generosity has had an important effect of attracting additional institute supporters.

"Thanks in large part to earlier gifts provided by Fred and Barbara Erb, we have accomplished the remarkable feat of securing funding for three endowed professorships with joint appointments in our schools of environment and business," Dolan says.

Rosina Bierbaum, SNRE dean, adds, "Fred and Barbara Erb had tremendous foresight nearly a decade ago, when they established this institute to create and spread knowledge that both protects our natural world and facilitates human prosperity. The complexity involved in addressing these immense challenges necessitates that strong interdisciplinary partnerships be built and nourished."

Professor Thomas Gladwin, director of the institute, said, "We now have the resources needed to take the institute to a higher level, which will allow us to discover and share profound new knowledge that will shape the future for the better."

The Erbs, of Birmingham, Mich., and Naples, Fla., were born and raised in the Detroit area. Fred earned his bachelor of business administration degree with honors from U-M in 1947, and promptly bought into his uncle's small lumber and coal business. When sold in 1993, the Erb Lumber Company was a 45-location, diversified business with $300 million in annual sales.

His current businesses include Edgemere Enterprises, a real estate management company in Birmingham. Barbara's community service has included board membership for The Music Hall of Detroit and the Michigan Art Train, and membership of the Women's Committee of the Cranbrook Academy of Art and the local chapter of the National Farm and Garden Club.

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