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Helen Zell Gives $50 Million to Michigan Writing Program

Helen Zell, the wife of billionaire investor Sam Zell, gave $50 million to the University of Michigan for a creative writing program through her family foundation.

The gift, the largest in the history of the school’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts, will permanently fund scholarships and stipends for 22 master’s students in creative writing, the university in Ann Arbor said today on its website. The program, founded in 1982, will be named the Helen Zell Writers’ Program.

Zell, who graduated from Michigan in 1964, is executive director of the Zell Family Foundation, which made the gift. Sam Zell is the chairman and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Equity Group Investments LLC. In 2007, Zell sold Equity Office Properties Trust to Blackstone Group LP for $39 billion. The same year, he orchestrated an $8.3 billion leveraged buyout of Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, which then went into bankruptcy from 2008 until 2012.

“Helen Zell is a patron of writing at the University of Michigan” Mary Sue Coleman, the university’s president, said in the statement. “This is a transformative gift in the humanities.”

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