A Legacy Marches On

Forest Akers Trust. Two $1 million grants for Spartan Marching Band and Bessey Hall

Two million-dollar grants—one to create a safer practice field for the Spartan Marching Band and the second to help renovate one of the busiest buildings on campus—are thanks to The Forest H. Akers Trust Fund. The Fund was established in the early 1960s by former MSU Trustee Forest Akers to support students of MSU by funding projects with broad appeal to the university community. The new grants bring the Trust’s total giving to Michigan State to more than $10 million.

For years the 300 students enrolled in MUS 114 (Spartan Marching Band) have done most of the work to earn one credit in the College of Music course on the Demonstration Hall Field. From August to the end of football season, the band practices regardless of the weather, even when the field has been churned into muddy ruts or the uneven surface has frozen solid. These conditions impair students’ ability to move with precision while reading music and increase the risk of serious injury to feet, ankles, and knees. The lead gift from the Forest Akers Trust allows MSU to build an artificial turf field to offer consistent, safe conditions year-round and replicate the well-tended stadium fields where they perform. Also, the new field will have bleachers for spectators and a tower for the Spartan Marching Band staff.

In addition, the Forest H. Akers Trust Field will be used as classroom space for kinesiology courses, will serve the broader student body engaged in intramural activities, and will be a prime site for use by the more than 20,000 young people who come to MSU each summer for athletic activities and camps. The new field will be ready for band practice for the 2014 season.

Built in 1961, Ernst Bessey Hall is used daily by more than 30 different departments and 10,000 students. By the time they graduate, most MSU students will have had at least one class in Bessey. Renovations to the Forest H. Akers Trust Floor (the third floor) will create seven ‘active learning environments’ and two ‘Rooms for Engaged and Active Learning, or REAL Rooms’ with capacity for about 560 students in any instructional period. The new learning spaces will have state-of-the-art technology and flexible furnishings designed specifically to enable lively interaction, enhance learning, and increase faculty-student engagement.

Instructional space renovation is a university priority. MSU will match – on a 1:2 basis – gifts to priority instructional areas in order to provide MSU students with the most effective technology and equipment to facilitate learning.

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