University of Detroit Mercy


University of Detroit Mercy announces $100 million Campaign

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Nov. 17, 2017 – Chris Fette was born in Virginia and spent most of his life in Pennsylvania, but it was one year in Detroit as a child and unquestioned kindness by the Religious Sisters of Mercy that changed his life and inspired a major gift to the College of Health Professions.

Fette, who built and still runs TESCO, a Pennsylvania-based maker of locomotive parts and tools, was raised by hard-working, religious parents who he says struggled much of his youth to pay the bills.

The family came to Michigan in 1946, when his mother Helen’s mother died. They moved into a house close enough for Helen to walk to Mercy College of Detroit, where she got a job as a secretary. His father, Chris, landed a job at the Packard Plant and Fette, who was five at the time, enrolled at St. Scholastica. The job with Packard was eliminated after six weeks and Fette’s father headed back to Pennsylvania for work, leaving his wife and children in Detroit. He came back regularly, traveling by bus, but Helen was his rock and support.

Gift to Detroit Mercy honors kindness of Mercy nuns from 1946

One winter afternoon, they returned to their house on Fenmore and it was cold. Helen examined the furnace but didn’t know what to do; her husband was back in Pennsylvania. 

Helen asked advice of her co-workers and superiors, who told her that her furnace had run out of oil. She had no money to purchase any.   

“My mom was always so strong, nothing ever bothered her, but I remember this because I saw how stressed she was by this,” Fette said. “That was traumatic for me. I realized then that I didn’t know what I was going to do when I grew up, but I knew one thing: I wasn’t going to be poor.”

But help was on the way: The Sisters of Mercy, hearing of Helen’s plight, surprised Helen with a gift of enough money to purchase oil to heat her house. It was a kindness that she never forgot, and one that Fette repaid many decades later.

Life became more stable for the Fette family, and they were reunited in Pennsylvania, where Fette grew up. When it came time for college, he knew he couldn’t afford it, but applied at University of Detroit because it had a co-op program. He thought he could pay for his education by working through college. 

But it wasn’t that easy: An admissions counselor found Fette ill-prepared for the degree in mechanical engineering he hoped to pursue and suggested trade school was a more realistic route. Fette still has that letter because it energized him to prove that he could do the work.

And he did: “I was not prepared, but I worked hard and ended up being a pretty good student.” He graduated in 1964 to a good job at GE, working on trains. 

At the time, GE locomotives took much longer to repair than those built by other companies because of the way they were built. He was charged with finding a way to shorten the time the engines were out of service. His ideas were well received, but GE thought the investment in new tools and processes would be too costly, a decision that was both frustrating and inspiring.

“I realized I was not doing what I wanted to do with my life, so I left GE in 1978, took our life savings of $55,000 and started working in my basement,” he said. That was the birth of Transportation Equipment Supply Company or TESCO, which he runs today with his wife Mary and their two sons. It has grown over the years and is a major manufacturer and employer in Erie, Penn. Its tools are used around the world, and one of its biggest clients is GE.

In 1985, Helen died, and Fette, a dutiful son, began regular visits her grave.  During those visits, he often hears his mother talking to him.

“She tells me to go up the hill to visit her brother, who was a priest, because she says he led a lonely life. So I do,” Fette said.

She also talked about their time in Detroit.

“I heard her say ‘Why don’t you offer something to the nuns who helped us out,’ ” he said. “And I thought, sure, I’m in a position to do that now, but wasn’t sure how.” His mother’s “recurring nudging” got to him, and he contacted the University to see how he could honor the sisters’ unquestioned generosity that had meant so much so many years ago.

He thought a gift to the College of Health Professions, with its ties to the Mercy sisters’ founder Catherine McAuley, would be just what his mother ordered. A recent expansion of the academic and lab space left the College in need of new simulation equipment. His gift of $100,000 provided the latest equipment for student learning.

“All of us in the College of Health Professions and the McAuley School of Nursing — who are dedicated to the education and development of future nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse anesthetists, etc. — are so grateful for this investment by Mr. Fette in recognition of his mother and the Sisters of Mercy,” said retiring CHP Dean Christine Pacini ’70, ‘74. “This equipment is critical for the development of healthcare providers who have the required skills to bring excellent healthcare to all people.”

The community of Religious Sisters of Mercy at Detroit Mercy says the act in 1946 that inspired the gift is just part of the order's mission.

“Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy to respond to those in need, particularly women and children," said Mary Kelly, RSM, associate professor in the College of Health Professions. "This is what we do. Such a generous thank you is completely unexpected—but much appreciated—as it helps us continue our ministry here at Detroit Mercy.”

FETTE PARENTS photo: Chris Fette was inspired by the work ethic of his parents, Chris and Helen Fette.

FETTE photo: Chris and Mary Fette


Oct. 25, 2017 – University of Detroit Mercy President Antoine M. Garibaldi, Ph.D., today announced the official launch of The Campaign for University of Detroit Mercy, a $100-million fundraising effort that will support student scholarships, academic programs, faculty research and state-of-the-art facilities.

According to Garibaldi, this campaign represents a significant milestone in the history of the University. 

“The response to this campaign by thousands of alumni, faculty, students, friends and members of the business and philanthropic communities has been extraordinary,” Garibaldi said. “The $78.5 million in donations and pledges that we have raised thus far is a strong indication of the depth of appreciation our alumni have for their alma mater and for their personal and professional success.” 

In the past six and a half years, generous donors have:

     •     Established more than 130 endowed scholarships.

     •     Increased the University’s endowment.

     •     Contributed 21 gifts in excess of $1 million.

The Campaign for University of Detroit Mercy has four main areas in which alumni, friends, businesses and organizations may choose to invest. 

     •     Student Financial Aid: Because 92 percent of Detroit Mercy undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid, scholarships are essential to attracting academically talented students. The University’s goal of $40 million for student financial aid demonstrates its commitment to ensure that all students, regardless of means, receive the support they need to pursue a Detroit Mercy degree. To date, the campaign has raised more than $29 million for scholarships.

     •     Programs & Faculty: The reputations of universities are built on the strength of their programs and the faculty members who teach them. Many Detroit Mercy programs achieve high national rankings in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges.” Additionally, Detroit Mercy graduates are known for their unique combination of strong academics, real-world experience and commitment to community service. Thus far, the University has raised $22.5 million toward the $25 million goal.

     •     Capital Improvements: Some of the planned facilities projects include a redesigned student union, a Center for Innovation & Collaboration, a Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning, active learning classrooms and more. The enhancement of facilities ensures that graduates will have experience in using today’s technology and receive exposure to relevant teaching methods that ensure their attainment. The University has set a goal of $25 million for these plans and has received $9.7 million to date.

     •     Unrestricted/Annual Support: Unrestricted gifts and annual support allow the University to budget effectively and plan for the future, as well as take care of emergency costs for student financial aid. 

Arnold D’Ambrosio, vice president for University Advancement at Detroit Mercy, is pleased with the progress of the campaign but understands that more work is necessary to ensure success. 

“The response from the alumni is tremendous,” he said. “Their belief and commitment to the students we serve have been significant. Our alumni will continue to play a crucial role in the success of this campaign.”

The public announcement of the campaign comes during a time of significant, positive news. This past fall, first-time freshmen enrollment rose to 554, four percent higher than fall 2016 and the third consecutive year that first-year undergraduate enrollment has increased. In addition, the University was ranked #19 in the 2018 edition of the U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges" for Midwest Best Regional Universities. Detroit Mercy is the only university in Michigan to be listed in the top 25. The Wall Street Journal’s 2018 Times Higher Education college rankings also ranked Detroit Mercy 188 out of 1,054 universities in the U.S., which is 82 spots higher than in 2017. And the state of Michigan’s Veteran Affairs Agency has once again designated the university as a Gold-certified Michigan Veteran-Friendly School. 

When The Campaign for University of Detroit Mercy is complete, an increase in the scholarship endowment will attract greater numbers of students who seek opportunities to participate in Detroit’s resurgence and develop their community leadership skills. 

To learn more about The Campaign for University of Detroit Mercy, please call University Advancement at 313- 993-1250, email or visit

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