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Detroit leader pledges $250,000 to support WSU social work scholarships

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Entrepreneur, philanthropist and Detroit leader William F. Pickard has pledged $250,000 to support five scholarships in the Wayne State University School of Social Work, including one named in honor of the late Detroit News journalist Angelo Henderson. 

The scholarships will be available to undergraduate and graduate social-work students who attend full or part time. Students also must be active members of the Association of Black Social Workers Detroit chapter or the Wayne State chapter. Recipients will complete their field placement with Black Family Development, a social services organization in Detroit.


“Social work is about making society stronger and making communities better,” said Pickard. “Supporting students who are steadfast in their determination to uplift Black families is rewarding, and I am proud to honor the individuals who showed me the way to make a difference.”

Pickard is a former faculty member in the WSU School of Social Work, and helped shape the school in several ways. In 2017, he gave $125,000 to support renovations in the school’s new building on Woodward Avenue. He also used that opportunity to name four rooms in honor of important people in his life, including longtime friend Paul Hubbard.

Hubbard, who founded the nonprofit Black Family Development in 1978,  worked with Pickard to improve the lives of Black families in Detroit.  An alumnus and dedicated supporter of the School of Social Work, Hubbard has served on the school’s Board of Visitors for several years. As a graduate student, Hubbard served as the president of the Association of Black Students and founded the Wayne State chapter of the Association of Black Social Workers, the first student chapter in the country. Seeing the significant financial need among social work students, Hubbard encouraged Pickard to create these scholarships.

“It has been my life’s work to strengthen my community, and the best way I have found is to strengthen Black families,"" Hubbard said. "Bill’s generous gift brightens the future for the city of Detroit, and I am proud to call him my friend. His thoughtful requirement that students have hands-on experience working with Black families will ensure that future social workers are deeply aware of the challenges facing the next generation, and provide access to energetic and forward-thinking young minds to the organizations involved.”

Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson noted both men are important leaders in Detroit and at Wayne State.

“Dr. Pickard and Mr. Hubbard have devoted themselves to strengthening the Black community in Detroit and ensuring that Black students have equal access to the education and opportunities that can create generational change,” Wilson said. “We are grateful to have them as part of our university community.”

Pickard hopes his giving will inspire a new generation of Black men to pursue social work, a field in which they’re underrepresented.

“It’s important for social workers to reflect the community members they serve,” said School of Social Work Dean Sheryl Kubiak. “At the Wayne State University School of Social Work, we’re teaching future community leaders how to make a difference. They can have no finer examples than Dr. William Pickard and Mr. Paul Hubbard.”

Each scholarship is named in honor of someone who has made a significant impact on Pickard’s development as a leader:

  • The Angelo Henderson Scholarship will honor the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote for The News, along with the Detroit Free Press and the Wall Street Journal, and hosted a popular radio program.
  • The Paul L. Hubbard Scholarship honors Hubbard’s long friendship with Pickard, along with Hubbard's legacy of championing social work as a tool for change, and efforts to make Black families stronger. 
  • William H. and Victoria Pickard Scholarship is named to honor Pickard’s parents, who worked on an assembly line at General Motors in Flint so that he could pursue an education.
  • The Dr. Gerald K. Smith Scholarship honors the founder of YouthVille Detroit, who established the organization to support young people through mentoring.
  • The Sylvia Wilson Scholarship is named in honor of the former director of admissions for the School of Social Work and her dedication to students.