Fostering hope and education

Alums' estate gift will support students in the College of Arts & Letters

Greg Shafer and Bernadette Gongora pose for a photo on a wooden deck overlooking a garden.

Alums Greg Shafer and Bernadette Gongora will be the first to tell you that life experience—more than money—has informed their lifelong desire to make a difference in as many places as they can, with whatever resources they have. 

Strong advocates for higher education, they have three MSU degrees between them (a Bachelors and a Masters in English for Greg, and a Masters in French for Bernadette.) Greg teaches at Mott Community College and Bernadette, now semi-retired, also taught at Mott and traveled the world working in corporate marketing. 

Bernadette, who is Cuban-American and the daughter of immigrants, is fluent in multiple languages, and also possesses a deep understanding of situations that might drive a family from outside the U.S. to seek a better life here.  

Which is part of the reason the couple have been devoted foster parents for years, providing a place to call “home” for more than three dozen young people. 

Now, they are helping future MSU students find a sense of “home,” too. 

After years of annual support for the College of Arts & Letters, Greg and Bernadette documented a $1.6 million estate gift to fund two scholarships and a discretionary fund to support the English department. 

The Maria Lourdes Rios and Israel J. Gongora Endowed Scholarship, named in honor of Bernadette’s parents, will provide financial aid to students with financial need, including those who have faced hardship from war or political oppression. 

The Gregory Shafer and Bernadette Gongora Endowed Scholarship will also help ease the financial burden for students pursuing their dream of earning a degree. 

“When I came to MSU as an English major, it was such a nurturing, home-like environment” Greg says. “I knew I wanted to leave something to the English department and Arts & Letters...those were just some of the most wonderful years of my life.” 

LEARN MORE about support for the College of Arts & Letters by contacting Executive Director of Constituency Programs Sarah Blom at or by calling (517) 884-1091.