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Marygrove Writer’s House to Help Save a Piece of Detroit

Classroom learning is great. But lessons don’t stop outside lecture halls. They’re about making the world around you better.

Marygrove College is fusing academics with urban revitalization, transforming the ramshackle home of a Pulitzer Prize winner into a writer’s residence and literary center and helping improve a small corner of Detroit.

It’s called the Tuxedo Project. And it’s pretty cool.

It began when Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of The Detroit Free Press who won journalism’s biggest prize for his columns on the city’s bankruptcy, kept driving past his childhood home at 7124 Tuxedo.

Like some 40,000 other homes in Detroit, it was in sorry shape: Stripped of all copper and piping by vandals, ransacked, plundered and left to rot.

“‘Wreck’ doesn’t come close to describing the interior,” Henderson wrote

The plan: Save the house and recruit a fellow to live there, help literacy in the neighborhood and teach at Marygrove. This week, the Knight Foundation awarded Marygrove a grant for $150,000 for the effort.

“The Tuxedo Project provides a tangible way to link our discipline, our students, and the larger community in collaborative revitalization,” said Darcy L. Brandel, associate professor of English and chair of English and modern languages at Marygrove College.

“We are honored to share what we know about reading, writing, and storytelling in ways the neighborhood residents find most useful. We are very excited to move forward.”

Marygrove won the grant over 1,000 applicants and 70 finalists. The college’s interim president, James F. Birge, said project well help a part of the Detroit that has yet to benefit from its downtown comeback.

“The area … is not one of the neighborhoods currently attracting investment or experiencing growth,” he said. “The residents in this area, like the 5,000 residents in the area just outside our campus gate —some of whom are students at our institution—are looking for local leaders and anchor institutions like ours to do their part in revitalizing the community.”

That’s because leadership, helping others and commitment to community help define Marygrove and Michigan’s 15 independent colleges and universities.

Unlike big state institutions, students at Marygrove and other independents actually know their professors.

Professors pride themselves on working closely with students to help them forge their own path, buck conventional wisdom and find a new way.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities. And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.