Throughout his long life, Milton J. Petrie, founder and majority owner of Petrie Stores, was known for his generosity, giving to traditional causes such as education, medicine, and the arts, but also—famously—assisting individuals who needed a helping hand.
In his will, Petrie saw to it that upon his death–which occurred in 1994 at age 92–a foundation bearing his name would carry on his good works.
The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation, which began operations in 2002, holds education at the heart of its mission. Education, the foundation asserts, is key to realizing individual potential and producing active, useful, and engaged participants in a democratic society.
Based on those criteria, Michigan Law’s Debt Management Program, a loan repayment assistance program, was a perfect fit. Recently, the foundation made a gift of $1 million to support the Petrie Fellows Debt Management Program for Public Service Law. In addition, the program received a $500,000 match through President Mary Sue Coleman’s Donor Challenge for support of graduate and professional students.
The Petrie Fellows Program will also be supported by $500,000 from the estate gift of Law School alumnus Bernard Petrie, ’52, who died in 2007.
Alumni like Kristin Kimmel, ’96, say support from the Debt Management Program is critical to helping students committed to public service to do the work of their dreams.
“I think it is the only way to give attorneys who want to devote their careers to public service a chance to do it,” says Kimmel, a staff attorney with New York-based Lawyers for Children, an advocacy group for abused and neglected children and children in foster care. “The biggest reason people don’t want to do it is the money.”
Kimmel sought a law degree to prepare for a career in child advocacy and chose Michigan Law for its renowned Child Advocacy Law Clinic. Post-graduate support, including the prestigious Skadden Fellowship in public interest legal work, helped her in her first few years out of law school, but from 2000-2007, Kimmel relied on the Debt Management Program to help pay back loans.
“After the fellowships, I worried about how I would pay off my educational debts,” Kimmel recalls. “I couldn’t have this career without that program, and especially not in New York City.”
Kimmel, who also serves as co-director of Lawyers for Children’s Special Project on Behalf of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth in Foster Care, was recently asked what she would do if she could do any job in the world, and she replied, “To be doing exactly what I’m doing.”
Milton Petrie would be pleased.