EAST LANSING, Mich. - Showing leadership in support of Empower Extraordinary – the campaign for Michigan State University, women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant and her husband Gary Rakan have made a $125,000 gift, through the Spartan Fund, the fundraising arm of the athletics department, in support of women’s athletics at MSU.
“Coach Merchant has shown since she came to campus that she cares about much more than just winning basketball games. She has been a great teammate to her fellow coaches and generous of her time in the community,” said MSU Director of Athletics Mark Hollis. “We’re so grateful and proud she and Gary have made this campaign commitment to impact Spartan student-athletes today and tomorrow.”
Merchant, who just finished her ninth year as head coach, won her 400th game as a head coach during the 2015-16 season. Merchant is the first MSU women’s basketball coach to capture two Big Ten titles (2011 and 2014) and was the fastest coach in school history to record 100 wins. Michigan State has won at least 20 games in eight of the nine seasons under Merchant. In her nine seasons, Michigan State has now earned 31 All-Big Ten selections, along with 46 Academic All-Big Ten selections.
In addition to the on the court achievements, Merchant serves as the Honorary Chair of the Advisory Cabinet for Faculty, Staff and Retiree Giving. On Wednesday, she and Rakan hosted over 180 Spartans to celebrate women in philanthropy and share the story of their campaign gift.
"We know how important this campaign is to the future of Michigan State and to Spartan Athletics, said Merchant. “Being part of Team MSU is a privilege and this is an opportunity to show our appreciation and gratitude to a University which has done so much for our family. We view the gift as a way to help provide resources to tremendous women's coaches in their pursuit of excellence."
Under the direction of Hollis, who along with his wife Nancy made a campaign gift of $1 million in 2012, teamwork amongst all 19 head coaches has been a mainstay of the program. MSU Athletics has approximately 400 student-athletes within its 13 women’s varsity sports. Six of them have won a Big Ten title in the last 10 years, combining to capture 15 conference championships.
“Financial support can mean the difference between a good program and a great one,” said Chuck Sleeper Executive Associate Athletic Director and Director of Development for the Spartan Fund. “What Suzy and Gary are doing with this gift is giving her fellow coaches the resources to help them compete. It makes it even more special that it’s coming from a fellow coach.”
Through Empower Extraordinary, MSU Athletics seeks to raise $262 million in support of building championship-level facilities, increasing its endowment and elevating annual gifts. All gifts made through the Spartan Fund during the campaign count toward the goal to support MSU Athletics and its mission to “teach, support and celebrate (MSU) student-athletes in their quest for excellence.” Gifts to the Spartan Fund can be directed to any of the 25 overall varsity sports and count toward Spartan Points and annual donor levels.