Skip to Main Content
Make a Difference Giving to Michigan State University

43 Extraordinary Years

Retiring after 43 years, Ken Waltzer reflects on his students, colleagues and proudest moments.

43 Extraordinary Years

When Professor Ken Waltzer first came to Michigan State University in 1971, the position was supposed to last for one year. His career over the next 43 years, however, is proof that Michigan State would be a very different place if Professor Waltzer, who is equal parts educator, scholar, and visionary, had decided that one year was enough.

His teaching, rooted in his earlier experiences as a jazz pianist, helped students go forth into the world of public affairs with the tools they need to think, to take action, and to accomplish good things.

His research solved the half-century-old mystery of Israel Meir Lau—now the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel—and the young Russian man he credits with saving his life during his imprisonment at Buchenwald during World War II.  It also unveils the hidden history of the rescue of children and youths at the Nazi concentration camp.

His commitment to academic excellence made James Madison College (JMC) and the Jewish Studies Program (JSP) at MSU what they are today. His leadership helped inspire donors, such as Michael and Elaine Serling, whose passion for JSP led to creation of the Michael and Elaine Serling and Friends endowed chair in Israel Studies. In addition to the Serlings’ personal gifts to this endowment, another $650,000 was given by the Jewish community. The Serlings added significantly to their legacy of support for JSP with a $1 million cash commitment to establish the Michael and Elaine Serling Visiting Israeli Scholars Fund.

In celebration of Ken Waltzer’s work, two separate endowments have been established to carry on the culture of excellence he proudly contributed to throughout his career. The first, the Ken and Sandy Waltzer Teaching Excellence Endowment, was created by Professor Waltzer and his wife to fund awards for JMC faculty who exemplify excellence. The second, the Kenneth Waltzer Jewish Studies Faculty Professional Development and Enrichment Fund, was created through contributions from former students, friends, and members of the Jewish Studies Advisory Board, and will fund professional development opportunities for JSP faculty.

For more information on making a gift to these funds, contact Director of Development for James Madison College Rocky Beckett at (517) 432-2117 or Director of Development for the College of Arts and Letters Bridget Paff at (517) 353-4725.

Author: Devon Barrett