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The Ann Arbor Student Building Industry Program

  Program History

A Heritage of Unwavering Support  . . .

Those who have lived it, some for all 30 years, others as they became involved. . . can best tell the program history 

HENRY LANDAU - In Memoriam
The Words of Henry Landau

Even in our wildest expectations, I don't know that anyone could have imagined that three decades later we would still be operating and training the future leaders of our Industry.  Our program, which has been duplicated throughout this county and the country, had the potential to be a superb program.  In soliciting individuals for the Board, we were blessed with some of the very best people in the construction industry donating their time, services, and material.  As the years have gone by, this has been the way of the organization. 

Even so, the program was far from the "norm" for a student activity.  We had to transport students to and from the project.  We needed not only a good instructor, but someone who could provide ample supervision of their activities along with making this a learning experience.   When you have twenty to thirty students in each program, with the possibility of 15 at a time during the morning or afternoon class, you also need room for them to work, so they aren't working on top of each other. 

"Along with the work formulating the program we had to have 'experts' volunteer their time for work such as plumbing, heating and air-conditioning electrical work, design, carpentry, etc.  As we began the program, the (now named) Greater Michigan Plumbing & Mechanical Contractors Association not only volunteered their time, the time of a contractor and his workers, but donated all the materials for the project.  They have been intensely involved since the beginning and for all thirty homes. We received similar donations from all the other trades involved."  From the very beginning we have had strong Board of Director's participation.  This is a program endorsed and overseen by the Ann Arbor School Board, but run by the Board of Directors of the Program.  I feel this has contributed greatly to its success. 

EARL SHAFFER - In Memoriam
The Words of Earl Shaffer

Earl agreed with Henry that one of the strengths of the program is that a builder runs the program, not a school person.  "I can't say enough about the builders who have served as President and the Builder of Record each year.  They give up hundreds of hours to each home, making it a quality home that all are proud of." 

The School Board has always felt good about the program.  I have viewed my efforts, as well as being the schools liaison and Secretary of the Board, as a buffer between the builder and instructors.  I help to ferret out any problems that may result, even though they are usually few and far between.  People on our Board give up a significant amount of their time.  We have received donations of all types of professional services from Lawyers, C.P.A.'s, Realtors, Bankers, Designers, Developers, etc. 

This type of devotion has been true throughout the history of the program. 

JAMES WELDON - In Memoriam
The Words of James Weldon

One of his continuing legacies will be this program.  As Jim shared with us previously: "I never thought we would still be building thirty years later.  It was a great idea, but who could have ever predicted that we would still be here.  As Henry and I began considering the various ways the program could be planned, I became more confident that it was possible."  "I am tremendously proud that the Ann Arbor Federal - through it's many variations, has been involved all these years.  They have always felt this was a worthwhile project; one they needed to continue supporting." 


Bob Anderson, Sr., Anderson Paint & Supply, has been involved in the program almost since its beginning, working with the Home Economics Classes and then Interior Design Classes regarding the decorating of the homes.  "One of the main benefits of the class is that the students learn about construction.  It helps them learn about the industry from all aspects, something that assists them later in life with career decisions."


Richard Russell, Richard Adams Russell, Inc., has a very unique perspective on the program.  He was the second instructor and served in that capacity for six years.  After leaving the school system to become a full-time builder, he was elected President of the Board and served as the Board President/Builder for a three-year term, then later for a two-year term. This has enabled him to view the program from both perspectives.  He had first hand knowledge of what kind of house the students were able to build and helped keep the program centered on the students, where it needed to be. 


Bob Guenther, Guenther Building Company, shares the distinction of having been the Board President and Builder of Record for the project for five years.  He presided over the program for two years in 1976-77 and three times from 1987-89.  Bob's commitment to the program is self-evident.  "I strongly feel that this program has helped us bring some of our best workers into the construction industry.  Whether they come in as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, builders, or in the supporting areas such as lumber companies, subcontractors offices, etc., the program has given us a better pool of workers." 

Editor’s Note:  Bob's support of the program has included making a number of lots available to the program. By doing so, it has enabled the program to have a "home" for our construction trailer.  This allowed us to move from one project to another more successfully, assisting the program.

The Words of Jack Wheatley

As mentioned by others, Jack Wheatley was also instrumental in establishing the program.  At the time, he was Business Manager of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 190 and President of the Southeastern Michigan Building Trades Council.  As Jack commented in an interview for the 25 year celebration for the program, "We knew this was a program that could help kids, so we pushed hard . . . we obtained some of our best members from the program"


As Chairman of the Board of the Greater Michigan PMC, our thirty years of commitment to this program is something that I point to with great pride. "I have one of the more unique perspectives on this program as I have served on the Board of Directors, was the plumbing contractor installation of our systems, and had the unique experience of also having a child enrolled in the program.  As a parent I watched him as he participated in the program and became a part of the solid team that built the home.  I saw first hand the numerous benefits a student received from the program." 

Throughout the years we have had participation from not only the contractors who sat on the Board of Directors, but also through the PMC staff.   Board members have included our former Executive Director Robert Fair, PMC's President and CEO Sandra Miller, and currently PMC's Executive Associate Diane Calmeyn.