Expanding exhibitions at MSU Broad

Alan and Rebecca Ross build on long-standing support for art at MSU

alan and rebecca ross, seated in a gallery at the MSU Broad Art Museum

Expanding exhibitions at MSU Broad

Alan and Rebecca Ross build on long-standing support for art at MSU

With their recent bequest to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at MSU, alumnus Alan and Rebecca Ross are furthering the impact of the existing Alan and Rebecca Ross Exhibition Endowment, which enables the museum to bring the work of vibrant, thought-provoking artists to the MSU and mid-Michigan communities.

The Alan and Rebecca Ross Education Wing at the museum—a light-filled area of the Zaha Hadid-designed building that hosts thousands of children, MSU students and adults for engaging public programming—was named in recognition of their generosity and steadfast support.

Alan Ross (’77 cum laude, Agriculture and Natural Resources) met Rebecca through work at a startup tech venture in Silicon Valley. The pair were engaged in 1986 and, after living in New York together for several years, they returned to Alan’s hometown of Detroit in 1990 and married in 1991. Ever the entrepreneur, Alan then purchased Gallagher Fire Equipment, which is now a major fire suppression and fire alarm contractor in southeast Michigan.

Alan and Rebecca share a fervent love for art and spend their time traveling to galleries and art fairs around the globe to collect pieces that resonate with them. They share an expansive collection of sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints and other works from prominent and established contemporary artists.

They also share their passion for the arts through investments of time: Rebecca has served on the Board of Governors for Cranbrook Academy of Art and was chair of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art, as was Alan. Alan currently serves as board chair at the MSU Broad Art Museum.

The Rosses also have supported the museum through numerous in-kind gifts of art, including several important Zaha Hadid works. The MSU Broad Art Museum currently holds the largest collection of Zaha Hadid Design works in North America.

The impact of the Rosses’ support for the arts also extends beyond MSU. In 2022, the Rosses created the Alan and Rebecca Ross DIA Enrichment Fund at MSU to strengthen collaborations between the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Department of Art, Art History and Design in MSU’s College of Arts & Letters.

The university recently launched Arts MSU to spotlight the diverse arts happenings across campus. MSU is home to nationally accredited museums, leading performing arts venues and programming that serve the community at the intersection of arts and research, and arts-focused gifts like this advance creativity, interdisciplinary discovery and student hands-on learning—both at MSU and throughout the state of Michigan.

Alan and Rebecca Ross recently answered questions to share their thoughts on what inspires them to give to MSU, the importance of university art museums and how they hope their bequest will provide meaningful experiences with art for generations to come.

What inspired you both to start giving to MSU?

Alan: Rebecca and I have always been generous people. We’ve always felt that money needs to better people’s lives. It’s a common goal for us. And we both believe that giving to Michigan State is a good use of the money. The university has been very warm to both of us. It’s been truly enjoyable, our entire experience with MSU. Coming back to MSU after all these years has made us feel like we’ve never left. It’s home to us. We are truly members of the Spartan family. 

Rebecca: I believe—and I say this a lot—that everyone needs purpose. And so, supporting MSU gives us a huge sense of purpose. I mean sure, Alan and I are workaholics; we love our work. But after all of that work, it's nice to use those means to give back. 

Alan: Rebecca is always saying her only dilemma is she wishes she had more to give.

Rebecca: I had no idea when we started giving it would feel like this, I was astounded. I thought, Why aren't my pockets deeper? We just love to give back.

Alan: And in thinking again about why we give to MSU, it’s important for us because we believe in education. I believe in what education does for people and how it unites people. MSU has really provided us a platform to use this money to better people’s lives.

What is it about MSU Broad Art Museum that inspires you to give?

Alan: I have always been interested in art and design. When I was here as a student at Michigan State University, I took my white room and painted a red line all the way around the room. I always had art on the wall. I was always interested in design and how my furniture was arranged. Art means a lot to me; it always has. 

So when we were approached by MSU not long after the museum opened—I think in 2014 or 2013—and they showed us not only the Zaha Hadid building but also what was here in the museum itself, we were just so happy to come on board. Of course we knew of Zaha, and when you walk through the museum and you’re in the presence of this building, you’re in awe. The building is a tremendous, tremendous place to be inside, to experience. But it’s the exhibitions at the end of the day that bring it to life. It’s important to us that this museum has longevity, and longevity is in exhibitions. 

Exhibitions are an important asset to not only the students and faculty, but also the community. What we wanted was to make sure there would never be any question that the exhibitions would be supported. The exhibitions program could thrive in perpetuity. And so we felt that our gift would be most beneficial if it was dedicated specifically to exhibitions so that there wouldn’t be a worry in the future where the money would come from.

Rebecca: The exhibitions are so important, and we wanted funding to be one less thing to worry about.

University art museums are uniquely situated to be able to do really innovative and bold things. Can you tell us more about the importance of giving back to university art museums in particular? 

Alan: For students, this is really the beginning of their adult education and the last episode of their youth before they enter the real world. This is where they’re going to get a chance to create their foundational understanding of art—an understanding of where it came from, where it is now, where it's going. University art museums are critical learning centers. 

Rebecca: As important as a library.

Alan: Exactly. This is where the students come to learn. This is where the faculty come to teach. It’s a versatile building, meant to serve teaching and learning goals. Additionally, it’s also a community space. It’s a place to gather. The way university art museums blend together both the social and the educational is very important.

Rebecca: Another thing I find, which I’ve tried to find ways to break down within the art world, is that art and art museums can be intimidating, especially to students. We were at a luncheon earlier today, and the three students at our table had not been in the museum. So I told them about the MSU Broad and that it’s always free. I told them please come, because it’s a place for you. 

That’s one thing I want everyone to know: This is a place for them. But that’s one thing I run up against—that people believe it’s intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. I want to help university art museums break down those barriers if I can.

Alan: You know, we want to unite students, faculty and community in this building. We want to unite them together for a common goal: the humanities; learning, growing. This is the place it should be.

How did your love and appreciation of art first begin, and how has it become a part of your life together?

Rebecca: Visiting museums at an early age helped inspire my love of art. I grew up in a big family (five kids!), so budget was a consideration. During family vacations, we always went to some kind of museum. It was a very formative experience for me.

Alan: We’re very fortunate that our tastes in art are very similar. Our collection has grown from our shared interest, and we’re very fortunate to have such a strong common interest.

Rebecca: We’ve evolved together too in our appreciation of art. We haven’t stayed still. 

Alan: That’s right. We learn; we research. And from that, our collection has grown, and in growing our collection together, it’s made us stronger as a couple.

Rebecca: My mother-in-law said that we’re so lucky we share this. Because you know, a lot of times couples go off and pursue their own interests, but we do this together. It’s really a lovely activity to do together and share.

In looking to the next 10, 50, 100 years, what do you hope your gift can give, specifically, to future generations of Spartans? 

Alan: I hope it gives them a memory of their time at Michigan State University. I want everyone who visits the museum to have a memory of an experience with art at the MSU Broad.

Rebecca: I want it to be something everyone will always carry with them.

Alan: I’m hoping that their memory will be so important and formative that they come back and give to the museum themselves. We hope this gift will continue to be an inspiration to others.

We want the MSU Broad to continue with its fabulous exhibitions, continue to inspire people and continue to grow its presence here in East Lansing.

Rebecca: Our whole experience with the museum has just been so, so good. Everyone makes us feel so welcome, every time.

Alan: And we mean everybody, from security to students to staff. Everybody. The people that work here really care about this work.

Rebecca: Yes, and they care for each other!

Alan: It’s incredibly rewarding for us to see that and to have seen the museum continue to grow over the years thanks to such good people. It’s because of that we wanted to make everybody’s life here easier with this endowment. 


LEARN MORE about support for the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum by contacting Senior Director of Advancement Liz Ivkovich at lgi@msu.edu or by calling (517) 353-5213.

LEARN MORE at arts.msu.edu.