By Alex Lopez, UF News
Gratitude to his high school teachers has inspired a Wisconsin attorney and winter resident of Gainesville to establish a scholarship fund at the University of Florida to help practicing schoolteachers earn graduate degrees.
Michael Gengler’s $2.2 million donation, made through a provision in his will, will support Alachua County schoolteachers who enroll in graduate school at UF’s College of Education to improve their teaching skills and advance their careers. Interest earned on the investment will cover the full tuition costs of graduate studies at UF for at least three teachers each year, according to a college spokesman.
Gengler, 69, credits his public schoolteachers, especially those who taught him at Gainesville High School, for his success in college and his law career.
“We all support our colleges and professional schools financially, but what about our public schools? They have to serve entire communities, not just a tiny fraction of the population,” said Gengler. “In my own experience, my public schoolteachers didn’t just get us through our classwork, they challenged us and inspired us.”
Gengler graduated from Gainesville High in 1962. He then earned degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law School and practiced law in Boston and Chicago. He now lives most of the year near Madison, Wis., and spends winters in Gainesville.
“I could not have had my career in corporate law in Gainesville, but at least I can give something back,” Gengler said.
“What a wonderful legacy from one of Alachua County’s own,” said Alachua County Public School’s interim superintendent Hershel Lyons. “Mr. Gengler’s teachers would be very proud of both his success and his generosity. His gift is the perfect tribute to them and to all public school teachers.”
Teachers who receive a scholarship from the Michael T. Gengler Endowment Fund must have three or more years of classroom teaching experience and agree to teach for three more years in Alachua County after earning their advanced degrees.
“I hope this program helps attract excellent teachers to the county, and then will encourage them to pursue advanced degrees and leverage that talent and education in their classroom teaching careers,” Gengler said. “If the program works, the real beneficiaries will be their students.”
Glenn Good, dean of UF’s College of Education, described Gengler’s gift as “thoughtful and magnificent.”
“For Michael Gengler to honor his former teachers by helping other teachers speaks well of his character. His scholarships will have a ripple effect that will touch teachers and schoolchildren for generations,” Good said.