On the weekend of April 13 and 14, SAPAC student volunteers and professional staff welcomed back to campus nearly fifty alumni and supporters for a weekend-long celebration of SAPAC’s 25th anniversary. Alumni gathered from Missouri, North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, and all parts of Michigan to reconnect with each other and reflect on the lasting impact of their volunteer experience at SAPAC.
Artists and student performers as well as alumni, parents, and SAPAC supporters packed Friday night’s gallery opening for rEVOLUTION: Making Art for Change in North Quad’s newly renovated Space 2435. Mingling in the crowd was Dr. Henry Johnson, Vice President Emeritus for Student Services and Community Affairs at U-M. It was in Dr. Johnson’s office, he reminded me, that student activists occupied over twenty-five years ago to focus U-M’s attention on the problem of sexual and intimate partner violence on campus. Led by Dr. Johnson’s advocacy efforts, the institution raised in three months the $75,000 needed to open SAPAC’s doors less than a year later.
Among the students who sat in Dr. Johnson’s office on those cold days in January 1985 were Pamela Kisch (BA, ‘87, MSW ’90) and David Lovinger (BFA, ’87). Pamela and David would go on to become SAPAC’s first paid Peer Educators and, with SAPAC’s inaugural director, Julie Steiner (BA) would help shape the mission, vision, and scope of SAPAC’s founding years. At the Alumni Celebration Brunch, held on April 14 in the Michigan League, we were honored to present our first ever inaugural Heart in Hand award to Pamela, Julie, and David for their vision and leadership in founding SAPAC.
Each awardee reflected on how their time at SAPAC had profoundly impacted the shape of their professional careers and their personal values. In her remarks, as she remembered the sit-in, Kisch offered, “I was scared to death--I don’t think I even said a word the entire time. I had never done anything like that before.” Entering her 20th year as Director of the Fair Housing Center of Southeast Michigan, Kisch’s career has been devoted to civil rights enforcement and protection. Lovinger, current Division Chief of Hospital Medicine at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago, Illinois connected his passion for ensuring high quality health care and health care access to his social justice experience at SAPAC. Julie Steiner is currently the Executive Director of the Washtenaw Housing Alliance a coalition of 29 community nonprofits and local government offices working together to end homelessness. Steiner came to the role of the first Director of SAPAC in 1986 after many years working for social change, advocacy organizations including ACORN, Arizona Right to Choose, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and in Washington, D.C, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Abortion Federation. “I could never have imagined that what we fought so hard to build” she shared with the audience, “would, twenty-five years later, become such an integral part of the institution.”
SAPAC also honored former Director Debra Cain with a Heart in Hand award for her leadership in Michigan as the Executive Director to the Michigan Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention and Treatment Board (MDVSAPTB). Cain’s career has been dedicated to improving the lives of survivors of interpersonal violence, creating more effective judicial responses to perpetrators of violence, and helping communities create effective, compassionate, coordinated responses to address sexual and intimate partner violence. Her state-wide and national advocacy efforts have been acknowledged through numerous awards and recognitions, including the “Angel” Award, presented by the National Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, the Apple Blossom Award presented by the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and many others. Many SAPAC alum and SAPAC former professional staff members shared their own memories or experiences in the “Share Your Story” portion of the brunch program.
Alum Jenna Casey (BA ’07, MSW '09) noted “It was a pleasure to meet so many generations of alums and hear their perspectives on time spent with SAPAC." Current NPA Co-Coordinator, Ellie Howe offered this perspective: "The alumni brunch was an incredible chance to recognize the accomplishments made over the years by SAPAC alumni, and to thank them for their contributions to SAPAC and its history. Personally, I was touched by the memories that were shared, and inspired to apply my experiences at SAPAC into my career and life as a whole. It is my great hope to someday stand before future volunteers and share the experiences of lifelong service to our cause." SAPAC congratulates and thanks all of our alumni for their contributions to SAPAC’s twenty-five years of success.
By: Holly Rider-Milkovich, Director