Rochester Hills Museum inaugurates leadership speaker series

Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation, will speak on Leadership in Philanthropy–Supporting Local Community Heritage on Nov. 16 at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester.

An attorney and expert in urban policy, Rapson is the inaugural speaker in what will become a series of educational forums on leadership presented by the Rochester Hills Museum’s Broomfield Center for Leadership.

Headquartered in Troy, the Kresge Foundation is a $3.1-billion private foundation established by S.S. Kresge in 1924. It current ranks 17th largest by assets in the U.S. and 19th by total giving.

Rapson joined the foundation in 2006. A former deputy mayor of Minneapolis, he received his law degree from Columbia University. Before law school he worked as a congressional assistant and oversaw the development and passage of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act, which brought full wilderness protection to the million-acre lake country of northern Minnesota. Locally, he sits on the boards of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the Downtown Detroit Partnership and M1 Rail.

Rapson said the Kresge Foundation’s mission has changed in recent years. “We’ve moved away from our traditional role as a funder of bricks and mortar,” he said. “As times have changed, we needed to be slightly more flexible … in this difficult environment.”

In April, the Rochester Hills Museum went public with its plan to restore a 1927 calf barn on the museum grounds to house the collection of former Congressman William S. Broomfield. Broomfield represented Oakland County in Congress from 1957 to 1993. Plans call for the project to be privately funded; Broomfield himself has pledged $100,000 from his own foundation in addition to his collection of papers and memorabilia.

Broomfield served with eight presidents and was ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs from 1975 until his retirement in 1992. Now 89, he lives in Maryland. His ancestors settled the Stony Creek Village area, where the museum now sits. The Broomfield Center will honor his legacy by showcasing his collection and offering leadership training, networking and debates.

Museum Supervisor Pat McKay said the idea of training future community leaders came from his experience of getting to know Broomfield in 2004 when the museum exhibited some of his memorabilia.

“He kept trying to break down these barriers in Washington,” McKay said. “I could just see how honest and devoted he was to the mission.” He said Broomfield always strove to be a gentleman “but he also had to get his point across.”

Initially, McKay said he was thinking about leadership in purely political terms. But he’s expanded that, since good leaders are needed in all facets of a community.

“The Older Persons Commission needs just as good leadership as a student council does,” he said. “What we’ve been trying to do all along is not take leadership for granted. The idea behind this was to kind of set a tone.”

Rapson said beyond just building a structure, it’s important to think about what the structure will provide for the community.

“A lot of times people can get caught up in the fever of a building campaign,” he said. “But unless you’ve thought about what goes on in it, then the building can become a curse.”

The event is free and open to the public but you must RSVP to (248) 656-4663.

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