Donor Advances His and His Wife's Passions With Two Scholarships
Don Apfel was a businessman who worked in a variety of administrative posts at General Motors for more than 30 years before retiring. Patricia Apfel was a dedicated theatre-goer who convinced her husband, and sometimes their two sons, to accompany her.
"My wife introduced me to the performing arts," reflects Don. "But I grew to love them as much as she did."
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Apfels traveled to downtown Detroit to catch a play or musical at the Schubert or Fisher theatres, where new productions often premiered before making their way to Broadway. After the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts opened in 1982, however, the couple became regular patrons at the new theatre on Macomb's Center Campus, much closer to their home in Shelby Township than Detroit.
" A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Guys and Dolls, Damn Yankees, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Glenn Miller Orchestra," Don ticks off the shows that he and his wife enjoyed at the Macomb Center, as well as a couple of the stars they saw perform there. "Rip Taylor was a riot and Anthony Lane appeared there before he was a big name on Broadway."
That Don still has a collection of playbills and programs from some of the shows he and his wife attended over the decades suggests how much he appreciated her influence.
When Patricia passed away 20 years ago, he established a performing arts scholarship at Macomb in her honor. The Patricia Anne Apfel Memorial Endowed Scholarship is awarded to students who intend to contribute to the performing arts as a writer, teacher and/or performer.
"I couldn't think of a better thing to do to pay tribute to her and her interest in the arts," says Don, "and for getting me involved in it as well."
Before he began attending shows at the Macomb Center, Don was most familiar with the college's South Campus in Warren, where he was a student for two years. He graduated with an associate degree and honors in 1972, before transferring to Wayne State University and earning a bachelor's degree in business. His granddaughter is now attending Macomb on his recommendation.
"I liked Macomb quite well and had a lot of good instructors," says Don, who grew up on the east side of Detroit, the son of a German immigrant (dad) and a native Michigander (mom). "The college is an integral part of the whole Macomb County picture. I like the convenience of it and the affordability. It offers so much opportunity to get an education. I don't think some of the county's young people would be able to attend college if Macomb wasn't there."
For that reason, Don recently established another scholarship for students at the college. This time, he dedicated it to a cause that he has grown as passionate about as his wife was about the arts.
"The rising sea levels and rising temperatures. The chewing up of the tropical rain forests. I'm so concerned about all that's happening," relates Don, the benefactor behind the Donald G. Apfel Environmental Science Scholarship for Macomb students. "We need more young folks to get into this field and make it their livelihood."
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