KALAMAZOO, MI — In an effort to better train students on financial literacy, Western Michigan University is opening a new financial wellness center.

The center comes after alumnus Todd Sanford, CEO and founder of Sanford Financial Services of Portage, donated a “multimillion-dollar naming gift.” 

Sanford, alumnus of WMU and founder of Sanford Financial Services of Portage donated a “major naming gift,” that will create a new financial wellness center on the upper floor of Schneider Hall at WMU. (Courtesy of WMU)

The exact amount of the gift and cost of the project were not released.

The Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness aims to impact both the WMU and Kalamazoo communities, with services such as financial counseling, workshops and conferences, finance internships for WMU students and advice of financial service planners and professionals. 

“It has long been my opinion that though we live in the most prosperous country on the planet, we as a society lack financial acumen,” Sanford said in a news release from WMU. “We have long needed programs focused on teaching financial skill sets at all levels of the educational spectrum in order to improve the financial wellness in Southwest Michigan and beyond.”  

Trained students, under the supervision of faculty and professionals, will offer mentoring, advice and guidance, Stacey Markin, director of marketing and communications for WMU’s Haworth College of Business, said. 

The center will be located in existing space in the upper level of Schneider Hall next to the Communication Center and the Career Center. 

“It will bring together a lot of different resources,” Markin said. 

An opening date has not been finalized, but Markin said officials are “hopeful for fall semester.” 

A significant amount of construction is needed to redesign the former classroom into the center, she said.

Jim DeMello, chair of WMU’s Department of Finance and Commercial Law, and Onur Arugaslan, director of personal financial planning program, will serve as co-directors of the new center. Matthew Ross, an assistant professor of finance, will serve as associate director. 

“It is thanks to the generosity, altruism and vision of Todd Sanford that this center will be in a position to address and enhance the financial wellness of both our campus community and the greater Kalamazoo community,” DeMello said in the news release. “The center will serve as an excellent resource for scholarships, internships and networking opportunities for our personal financial planning majors.”

According to the report, “Financial Capability in the United States 2016,” fewer than 50 percent of people have three months of expenses saved, the release said.

Faculty member named dean of WMU’s Haworth College of Business 

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