Ann (Pirochta) Staranowicz wrote a letter to the daughter of Dr. Stanley Idzerda, original director of the Honors College. Her letter gives us a glimpse into what university life was like in the 1960s, and how the kindness of one person can change a life.
Dear Ms. Check,
Thank you for your kind expression of gratitude for our contribution to the Honors College Scholarship Fund established in your father's memory. It is a pleasure to give back in a small way to a man who gave a gift beyond measure to me so many years ago.
Some people and events in our lives remain vivid in our memories throughout time. Your father was such a person to me, and the event occurred at Pontiac Senior High School in the spring of 1958. Those of us who were at the top of our class of 400 were singled out to meet with a visitor from Michigan State University. Dr. Stanley Idzerda was his name. He was of slight build but a powerhouse of enthusiasm. His intensity immediately drew me in.
The students with Dr. Idzerda were representing the MSU Honors College which was still in its infancy, he explained. He had come to our school on a recruiting mission, and he wanted ME! (Not me alone, of course.) Of all things. I knew colleges recruited for sports, but for academics?!
Dr. Idzerda promoted the Honors College, offered me a scholarship (which I sorely needed), gave me some informational materials on MSU, and asked me to discuss the proposal with my parents that night.
I was in a daze.
What a gift this news was for my mother (a farm girl whose formal education and dream of being a teacher ended at eighth grade) and for my father (a naturalized citizen and factory worker with an eighth-grade education). We were overwhelmed by such good fortune.
There was no question as to what my response would be when I returned to school the next day.
And so, sight unseen, that fall of '58 I entered MSU and began a four-year adventure of priceless experiences in a place I compared to Paradise.
Your father continued to assist me. He acquainted me with additional scholarship for which I could apply and also found me a job working for Dean Winburne of the Basic College who was compiling a dictionary of veterinary medicine. Until graduation I worked for that dear man, mainly in the basement of the Basic College building (which now, ironically, houses the Honors College!)
It is impossible for me to sum up the wealth of experiences that I had in those years I spent at MSU. What a treasure chest!
That brief visit to my high school in the spring of 1958 opened an invaluable pathway for me. Your father believed in me, and I have endeavored to live up to his trust since.
I wish I had had the opportunity to tell Dr. Idzerda this before he died and do give thanks for the opportunity to convey it to you in his stead.
Your father was truly a great man, a wise man with heart and vision, dedicated and generous, with a love of learning and the enrichment it gives to our lives. He was a magnificent champion, and I believe his spirit lives on in so many of us who were touched by his brilliance.
Ms. Check, I would very much like to meet you in person. Fred and I visit campus every fall for a football week-end. Perhaps we could get together then?
Ann (Pirochta) Staranowicz
Class of '62
Photo: Dr. Stanley Idzerda (far right) with campus colleagues. Courtesy: MSU Archives and Historical Collections.