When Dr. Thomas Maleck received his PhD in Transportation Engineering in 1980, he did not foresee the influence disabilities would have on his career at MSU. Until, that is, he met Michael Hudson, RCPD Director, in 1995 on the MSU Traffic Engineering Committee. One of the committee's main initiatives was to make campus safer for pedestrians, and Hudson and Maleck formed an award-winning partnership to do so.
Maleck, a professor in the Traffic Engineering area of the Civil Engineering Department at MSU for over 21 years, began his career with the Michigan Department of Transportation. After gaining experience in traffic design for safety and utility, he brought his expertise to MSU to transform the campus' versatility. "Tom's real interest has always been safety," said Hudson, who collaborated with Maleck on the task force that transformed traffic circles into traditional intersections, which are easier and more safe for pedestrians, especially those who are sight impaired.
Maleck said that although he is an engineer by training, he was one of the first to specialize in highway safety in 1966. "My interest in highway safety led to my awareness of the needs of the disabled. Mike has challenged me to appreciate that there is not just one type of disability, but many," he said. Thanks to Dr. Maleck's vigilance, MSU has reduced traffic injuries on campus by 90% in the last 10 years, earning the Governor's Traffic Safety Advisory Commission Richard H. Austin 2006 Outstanding Contributions to Traffic Safety Award.
Hudson was a guest presenter in Maleck's Civil Engineering class, CE 341, Introduction to Transportation Engineering, where he spoke about projects MSU has undertaken to make campus easier to navigate for individuals, such as talking intersections, ramps, and crosswalks. A wide range of issues are served with traffic design, such as visual, mobility, and cognitive and learning disabilities. Hudson sparked Maleck's interest in helping the RCPD with his unique perspective. Maleck said it was a "very powerful presentation, and it got me thinking. It dawned on me that this might be a meaningful donation." In Fall 2008, he decided to found an endowment for the center that would provide for unmet needs on a broad scale.
The Michael J. Hudson Emerging Opportunities Endowment honors both Hudson and Maleck's contributions to MSU, but was funded with the idea of giving the RCPD the ability to finance new endeavors that transform the center's outreach, like the Traffic Engineering Committee did.
Hudson said, "This is an endowment about mutual respect for two individuals in their fields. Tom realizes disabilities have impacts on family, and he challenges me to keep my mind open to aid not only students and faculty but their families as well."
The endowment funds are to be used at the director's discretion for current challenges, the evolution of the RCPD, and emerging needs. Maleck says he hopes others will contribute and help it grow into a significant program. "I know Mike will take this and do something very important with it," he said.
One of the foremost ideas for use of the endowment includes funding tuition opportunities for veterans with disabilities, in honor of Maleck's daughter. The Maleck family's dedication to opportunities for people with disabilities is prevalent, as his wife, Ellen, is a retired principal and special education director in Ovid-Elsie Area Schools. Hudson said, "The RCPD is filled with great ideas that just need a little resource to get started and become a reality." The endowment will support the RCPD belief that disabilities need not limit achievement and will create new opportunities for students and faculty at MSU.
Make a gift to the Michael J. Hudson Emerging Opportunities Endowment online