The University of Michigan’s Barger Leadership Institute (BLI) is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a new commitment from U-M alumnus and retired JetBlue Airways Chief Executive Officer, Dave Barger. The $10 million gift will expand and sustain the Institute’s ability to develop forward-thinking leaders from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts.

In 2007, Barger provided a foundational gift to provide experiential leadership opportunities for students. The institute has since helped deliver a student experience that is defined beyond the classroom, with action-based programs that include technology start-ups, art projects, international development efforts and campus activities.

“It’s a great honor to be able to continue to support the BLI and to help expand experiential opportunities for the next generation of leaders,” said Dave Barger. “Michigan excels at preparing undergraduate students to contribute as well-rounded forward-thinking leaders and it’s a privilege to be able to support this important work.”

The gift also establishes the Richard H. Price Founders Fund at LSA, honoring the visionary leadership of Richard H. Price, the BLI’s founding director. The fund will keep the founding director’s vision alive by enabling future Institute directors to experiment with innovative programs and opportunities.

“Ten years ago, Dave Barger’s foundational gift for the BLI transformed LSA’s ability to prepare liberal arts students for important leadership roles,” said Andrew D. Martin, dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. “Dave’s generosity today will help us develop more CEOs, members of Congress, directors, innovators, and leaders of the future.”

As the BLI enters its next decade, this new endowment will help sustain and expand the programming that has enabled the Institute to help assist students become capable leaders. Barger’s additional support will enhance and expand the BLI family of programs by giving more students access to BLI resources, such as fellowships, internships, skills seminars, small group coaching and global experiences. Funding will allow the BLI to expand ongoing programs and pilot new programs, all while promoting the work underway at the Institute.

“One of the key ideas behind the BLI is that students learn how to be effective leaders not by sitting back and reading about it, but by taking their intellectual passions and interests and putting the rubber to the road,” said Jason Owen-Smith, director of the Barger Leadership Institute and Barger Leadership Institute professor. “Over the past 10 years, individual students have benefitted from the BLI through project support, study and work abroad, and access to opportunities—getting a peek behind the velvet curtain, so to speak."

"Because of Dave’s generosity, we are able to expand the scale of what we’re doing and to think very strategically about it,” said Owen-Smith. “His gift will allow us to add additional complementary lines of work to reach more students on campus.”

“The BLI provided a positive and constructive environment for me to mature my leadership skills to be ready for the next step in my life,” said Kate Marciniak, a senior in LSA.  “Not only have I developed into a stronger and more effective leader, I’ve had access to incredible opportunities and transformative experiences that challenged me to grow both professionally and personally.”

About the Barger Leadership Institute

The Barger Leadership Institute was created to foster leadership among undergraduates in any field by providing opportunities for leadership development experiences beyond the classroom. For the past decade, the BLI has helped shape future leaders by cultivating a student-driven and faculty-guided community, focused on action-learning projects.

As the core co-curricular program at the BLI, the Leadership Fellows program engages students from any field in projects, training activities and events that will help them harness their inner leaders. Students can choose to progressively increase their involvement as BLI Members, Fellows or Advanced Fellows during their undergraduate education utilizing the language of the Ten BLI Habits.

Student project teams at the BLI have earned national recognition for their impact locally and abroad, including a team that was recognized by the Obama Administration as one of 12 finalists in the White House Campus Champions for Change competition.

BLI funding also enabled a group of students to install solar-powered portable lights and a freezer in an isolated Brazilian community, providing its residents access to renewable energy.

About David Barger

An ardent supporter of U-M since 1987, Barger has given more than $18.0 million in support of LSA, Athletics, University Libraries, Michigan Medicine and the Alumni Association.

As part his foundational gift to the BLI in 2007, Barger established both scholarships and professorships at LSA, including The Barger Family Professorship and Barger Leadership Institute Professorship, currently held by BLI Director Owen-Smith. In addition, funding for fellows, interns, faculty and leadership partnerships has propelled the work of the BLI over the past decade.

He has also helped provide student-athletes with opportunities for academic, career and leadership development, in addition to funding Michigan Stadium renovations.

Leading by example as the BLI’s founder, Barger has also lent his expertise to multiple committees at U-M, including LSA’s Dean’s Advisory Council and Organizational Studies Committee.

In 1998, Barger was a member of JetBlue Airways founding team as President & COO, eventually serving as the CEO for seven years.  He currently serves as an Operating Partner at Connor Capital based in Santa Barbara, CA and Co-Chairs the Industry Specialists at Oaktree Transportation Infrastructure Fund.