Swimming lessons

Name: Samuel Myers Jr.

Role at the U: Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs

His research: A longtime competitive swimmer, Wilkins has merged two of his passions—swimming and research—to study drowning rates by race.

What he learned: Black children ages 5 to 14 are more than three times as likely to drown as white children. And American Indian drowning rates are the highest of any racial or ethnic group in the country.

What happened next: His research led to the reopening of one of the last indoor public pools in Minneapolis, increasing access to swimming instruction in a low-income area—a first step in preventing drownings.

How his donor-funded endowed professorship helps: “It provides me with the opportunity to tackle difficult and complex topics that aren’t yet on the radar screen for traditional funders like the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation. The endowment permitted me to undertake this research, and now there’s heightened public awareness of the problem.”

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