2001-present  |  Bicentennial  |  Contribution to the Arts  |  Gallery  |  Generosity/Compassion  |  Innovation  |  Staff Stories  |  Timeline  |  Topic

Storytelling was more than just a career for Wendy Frisch; it was a calling.

The University of Michigan graduate spent nearly 20 years of her career working at the university, including 14 in University Human Resources. Wendy’s gift for creating connection through storytelling was a natural fit for UHR. Among many accomplishments, her talent and passion for writing helped faculty and staff apply policies to personal circumstances, connect to resources in times of hardship, and celebrate outstanding colleagues.

The consummate storyteller, Wendy was tapped to chronicle staff histories for the Stories of the Staff project leading up to the university’s bicentennial in 2017. This significant achievement preserves the lasting legacy of staff members throughout history—and serves as Wendy’s own legacy at U-M.

ALWAYS A WRITER

Wendy was raised in southeast Michigan by her parents, a psychotherapist and a retired doctor who cared for civil rights hero Rosa Parks. She received her bachelor’s degree in religious studies from U-M in 1978.

Passionate about the arts, she dreamed of studying classical ballet, writing poetry, undertaking graduate work in comparative religion and working in an art museum. Her gift for writing would become a career.

Wendy’s professional career began as an editorial assistant with the American Schools of Oriental Research followed by a promotions coordinator for the university’s medical school.

She left U-M a few years later to pursue opportunities in the private sector, working in various positions in public relations and editing for local companies, including her own consulting business. Her work won her a number of awards, including the Award of Excellence from the Society for Technical Communications and the Target Award from the Direct Marketing Association of Detroit.

But she found her way back to U-M, first at the Ross School of Business, and later in UHR.

SHARING THE STORIES OF OTHERS

Four years before the official start of the bicentennial, the university launched a storytelling initiative to spotlight staff members throughout U-M history.

As director of the Stories of the Staff project, Wendy managed the production of the website, handled submissions and identified stories going back to the early 1800s. She reviewed publications, researched the archives at the Bentley Historical Library and tapped her extensive network of colleagues to unearth compelling stories. Over the course of five years, she collected more than 125 stories, photos, anecdotes and videos that illustrate the vast contributions of staff members.

A treasure trove of Michigan history, Stories of the Staff shows the power of storytelling to connect past, present and future. Wendy’s deeply researched stories bring to life men and women who facilitated technological advancements, comforted sick children, broke barriers and in one case even wrote the screenplay for an Oscar-nominated film. Their dedicated contributions, once lost to history, made the university what it is today.

A FULL LIFE OUTSIDE OF WORK

Outside of work, Wendy’s passion for the arts and world around her lives on.

She has traveled extensively across the country with her daughter, Eden, and partner, Ken Mikolowski, a retired poetry lecturer at U-M. Her greenhouse at her home in Ann Arbor is full of camellias and orchids.

In 2018, Wendy retired from U-M. Her near-term plans include caring for her aging father, traveling with Ken and to visit her daughter, going for walks with Buddy, her Irish Wolfhound mix dog, and sharpening her horticultural skills.