- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan is getting a $50 million gift from real estate entrepreneur and Republican activist Ronald Weiser and his wife.

The school said Thursday that $25 million of the gift from Ronald and Eileen Weiser goes to a program within Michigan’s International Institute. The university says that the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies “studies how democracies emerge” as well as “the conditions necessary for assuring and extending political, social, and economic freedom.”

Ronald Weiser is founder of McKinley Associates. He was U.S. ambassador to Slovakia in 2001-2005 and Michigan Republican chairman in 2009-2011.

Eileen Weiser is an elected member of the State Board of Education.

The university says the Weisers will wait to decide how much of the remaining money is used.



Weiser says that the need for a better understanding of democratic processes became clear to him during his stint as a diplomat.

“When I was working with the Slovaks, I realized there are no books written, no roadmap, for a country to transition from an authoritarian government to a free society,” he said in a statement. “Studying countries that have made the successful transition to democracy gives us an opportunity to help nations that are in the process of transitioning.”

The center also will look at “how autocracies endure” around the world, the university said.

The university says the new gift from the alumni couple and Ann Arbor residents raises their total donations to the school to $95.9 million.

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