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Louis Siegel Memorial Fund

The first picture ever taken of Julius (left) and Benjamin Siegel, circa 1925, about 10 years after the death of Louis. No pictures exist of Louis.

Thanks to another generous gift by long-term Semester in Detroit friend and U-M Alumnus, Ronald Siegel, Semester in Detroit is thrilled to announce the establishment of the Louis Siegel Memorial Fund. The Fund will be used to provide annual awards to undergraduate students participating in the Semester in Detroit program who were born in a country other than the United States or are the children of those born in a country other than the United States, with a preference for students who are the first in their family to attend college.

Semester in Detroit greatly appreciates the long-standing support from Ron Siegel and the thoughtful inspiration and unique purpose for this new fund which is reflected in his own words:

Louis Siegel died around 1915 when he was about 5 years old. None of this is certain because his family was too poor to afford a proper burial or funeral. He was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave, lost to time. Filled with guilt and shame, the family rarely mentioned him again. 

His parents, Harry and Annie, had emigrated from the Bessarabia Governorate of Russia to escape religious persecution following the Kishinev pogrom of 1903. They came to settle in the Black Bottom section of Detroit, which was then commonly known as Little Jerusalem. Harry earned what he could as a “rag man” collecting rags, paper, cans and bottles and trying to sell them for whatever compensation he could receive. Louis was their first child born in America. 

One day, Louis snuck out of their rented hovel and attempted to climb a nearby tree, while Annie was tending to his infant brother, Benjamin. Louis fell from the tree, landed on his head, and died instantly. As a result of the death of Louis, Annie and Harry conceived one more child, the Donor’s father, Julius. This gift is being established so that the memory of Louis will not be forgotten.