Paying It Forward

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Your Dollars at Work

Paying It Forward

A Physics Alumnus Connects with the Next Generation


Mariann Salisbury, Development Director, American Institute of Physics

David Zick University of Michigan-Flint class of 1973, inducted into  Sigma Pi Sigma in 1996.David Zick is a philanthropist whose motivations for giving have deep roots in his undergraduate years at the University of Michigan-Flint. In the 1970s, he studied physics and education, earning a bachelor’s degree from UM-Flint and a master’s degree in the same fields from Michigan State University. From his master’s degree he went on to teach high school physics for four years. The friendships he made with faculty and classmates in those years are the bedrock of his professional foundation.

Zick left teaching and went into business for himself, but never lost his passion for physics or his gratitude for the scholarships that made his undergraduate education possible. To this day, he values how studying physics in small collaborative teams shaped his thinking and informs his business. He considers his giving a way to ensure the opportunities that were available to him as a student in need will remain available to others.
"The clarity that science teaches is essential for problem solving," Zick says. "The value of my undergraduate experience is that I learned to simplify issues, identify problems while not being distracted by tangential issues, and work collaboratively with others to find solutions."

Zick was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma in 1996, long after he graduated, as there wasn't a chapter at University of Michigan-Flint in 1973. Zick became involved with Sigma Pi Sigma after he initiated a giving program to UM-Flint to support the undergraduate physics department. He has funded many scholarships to help young people finish their degrees, meeting with students and mentoring them. He has supported lectureships on campus. And in 2012, he set an example by funding the building of an innovative lab/lecture learning center for physics and engineering. Most recently, in 2016, Zick honored Dr. Donald DeGraaf, his physics professor (who is now 93), by funding a second lab/lecture learning center hall in his professor's name.

Through his philanthropy, Zick has advanced opportunities for undergraduates in physics and has kept in touch with some of the students as they move through undergraduate and graduate programs and to the professions of teaching, research, and business. In addition to supporting SPS financially since 1996, he has also donated his time to several SPS committees: working to inspire local chapters to reach out to their communities, invite speakers to share their scientific research and breakthroughs, and to encourage young people to study the physical sciences.

Zick believes that his decisions in the business world had their earliest underpinnings in the undergraduate physics classroom where he learned to identify problems, process solutions, and work carefully and collaboratively in teams to learn from the process. He has found that these lessons continue to apply in his professional life and have profoundly shaped how he approaches his work.
Through his unwavering support, Zick has inspired others to get involved in SPS at the local and national levels. As you reflect on your own experience, we hope you will consider making a gift to SPS in honor of your favorite professor or mentor. For more information, contact Mariann Salisbury, AIP Director of Development, msalisbury [at], or call 301-209-3098.

 Dr. Donald Boys, David Zick, Dr. Donald DeGraaf, and Dr. Frank Rose at the dedication ceremony for the DeGraaf Learning Center. Photo courtesy of David Zick.

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