Writing the Next Chapter for Spartans

a women and her three boys

The College of Arts & Letters has a new endowed faculty position thanks to the generosity of MSU alumna and former Ohio State Senator Karen Gillmor, who has been giving back to Michigan State University for the past decade.

The Karen L. Gillmor, Ph.D. Endowed Professorship in Professional and Public Writing, created in Gillmor’s name, will help recruit and retain outstanding professional and public writing faculty.

“Endowed professorships and chairs are so valuable and important because they do continue and the money will always be there. The ideas can be built upon and passed to the next generation of professors,” Gillmor said. “I would like this professorship to focus on professional writing because it’s so important to one’s future. If the words we say and the words we write do not transmit well, they will not propel us forward. We will always need to effectively communicate regardless of what happens in the future or what trends there are.”

At MSU, Gillmor majored in French and Elementary Education, graduating cum laude in 1969 with a B.A. from Justin Morrill College. She went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.

“I want to give other children the same opportunity,” Gillmor said. “I want them to have the very best faculty, the very best curriculum that they can have. I feel they get that here at Michigan State.”

This is not the first time Gillmor has donated to MSU. In 2011, she established the Gillmor Family Spartan Scholarship Challenge for Arts and Letters in her family’s honor.  

“Our family particularly likes to give to education because we believe that it’s the pathway to good futures for young people,” Gillmor said. “And, I want to pay back to Michigan State for what I’ve received here. If I had been unhappy here, I don’t know that I would have gone to grad school. I don’t know that I would have had the career I’ve had.”

Gillmor, who currently is serving her second term as a Commissioner with the Ohio Industrial Commission, which oversees workers’ compensation disputes, and as Chair of the Self-Insuring Employers Evaluation Board, has had a very diverse career filled with state and federal public service including three terms as State Senator, representing Crawford, Logan, Marion, Sandusky, Seneca, Wyandot, and Union counties in Ohio.

I would like this professorship to focus on professional writing because it’s so important to one’s future. If the words we say and the words we write do not transmit well, they will not propel us forward. 


“One of my first pieces of legislation was to create the Women’s Health Initiative in Ohio,” Gillmor said. “We were the first state to create that initiative before the federal government started the national center.”

During her third term in the Ohio State Senate, she helped to pass a bio products bill, the first one in the country. She also received the National Outstanding Legislator of the Year Award and was appointed by the Governor as Vice Chairman of the State Employment Relations Board, which oversees collective bargaining.

Gillmor was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to be the Assistant to then U.S. Secretary of Labor, Elizabeth Dole. Other positions she has held include Vice President of Huntington Banks, Director of Management Planning and Research for the Ohio Industrial Commission, Assistant to the Vice President at The Ohio State University, Assistant to the President of Indiana Central University (now the University of Indianapolis), Special Assistant to the Dean of The Ohio State Law School, elementary French teacher, and Director of Guidance for a rural Ohio school district.

a family standing with George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush
Karen Gillmor and her three sons at the White House with President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush

Gillmor created the Physician Relations Program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, which was the second largest teaching hospital and fourth largest medical school in the country. She also started Ohio’s Center for Healthcare Policy and Research.

“Our state did not have a center, and in order to draw down federal dollars from the U.S. Center for Healthcare Policy and Research, we had to start one,” Gillmor said. “I did that while running for my first term in the Ohio Senate where I was elected by 63 percent of the vote.”

In 2011, Gillmor was appointed by the Governor of Ohio as Chairman of the Industrial Commission. She is now serving her second term on the Industrial Commission, which will end on June 30, 2023.

“When we’ve been blessed to do well in life, we should give back,” Gillmor said. “We should help other people because sometimes it just takes that little extra to let someone blossom and do really well. Who knows where the next phenomenal scientists will come from, or the next author, or the next healthcare professional who will break through? It’s not only a benefit to the individual students to receive a fine education, but it’s a benefit to the state and to the country.”