Photoshop Phriday: Bert Askwith
At a large institution like Michigan the breadth of possible experiences spans so large that no two students will graduate with the same story. However these days it is near impossible to attend without having your life touched in some way by the generosity of Bert Askwith. Askwith, who passed away on Monday at the age of 104, had been a part of the Michigan community for almost 90 years. He enrolled at Michigan in the late 1920s and studied economics and journalism. In the midst of the Great Depression he seized upon a business opportunity. Many students looking to go home to New York couldn’t because of a rail worker’s strike, so Askwith rented a bus and sold tickets to his classmates. After graduating in 1931 this blossomed into Campus Coach Lines, a company he ran for over 80 years. Askwith was a “great believer in a well-rounded education” and encouraged students to “enjoy all aspects of life”.
He wanted to give back to Michigan in ways that would spur student development outside of the classroom, foster friendships, and provide some creature comforts that he and his peers did not enjoy during the depression. As a student Askwith reviewed movies for the Michigan Daily and he subsequently provided the founding donation for the Askwith Media Library which houses a collection of tens of thousands of movies, TV shows, documentaries …just about anything imaginable. The friendships I developed with others in my hall freshman year (including my wife!) included lots of nights watching movies rented from Askwith. In 2011 he funded the construction and opening of Bert’s Cafe and Study Lounge in the UGLI and in 2013 he financed a program that provided a free ticket to all new students to a UMS performance. He supported the Knight-Wallace fellowship program and many other wonderful causes at Michigan and elsewhere. A lifelong wolverine and overwhelmingly generous man, Bert will certainly be missed. What was his secret to living such a long and active life? Perhaps it was Bert’s love of pääsiäisleipä, which he was known to bring to parties to share with guests.