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Ben Snyder, Sr.

Founder and Director Emeritus

Ben M. Snyder III, the first director of Horizons-Upward Bound, was a man of faith and vision. He was an idealist with a social conscience. Ben demonstrated courage as a bombardier and was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross in World War Two. Ben also demonstrated academic excellence, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina and receiving his MA degree in history from Harvard University after the war. He authored Once More With Joy, a book on the history of Cranbrook School which includes a seminal chapter on the founding of Horizons-Upward Bound.
Ben came to Cranbrook in 1948, where he served as a teacher, administrator and coach until his official retirement in 1990. He was honored many years later with induction into the Michigan Track Coaches Hall of Fame for his legendary success. He also served as the first director of Special and Summer Programs, founded the annual World Affairs Seminar and initiated the foreign Student Exchange Program.

In the summer of 1965 he founded Horizons-Upward Bound, welcoming 50 under-served male students from Detroit Public Schools to Cranbrook, thanks to a three-year grant from the Ford Foundation. Wanting to increase the number of students, he came up with the very creative, but for an independent school at that time, a most unusual idea to apply for a grant to become part of a program newly established by the Office of Economic Opportunity called Upward Bound. The resulting program became known as Horizons-Upward Bound. In 1967, Ben had the foresight to gather a group of "believers" to form the first HUB Advisory Board. This group helped raise private funds for HUB, making it the only Upward Bound program partially funded through non-government support. From that start, HUB grew into the largest Upward Bound program in the country.

In 1977 HUB became coeducational. Forty young women broke the barrier of Cranbrook's single sex education and besides some misgivings on the part of the student leadership, the male contingent became better dressed and more timely.

Ben initiated the publication of an annual report, a very useful tool for fundraising, publicity and sharing the lessons of HUB with TRIO Directors and the independent school community. It included the Director's Journal, which was both anecdotal and philosophical and remains an invaluable tool for learning from the past.

Though HUB was intended to help under-served students to gain the benefits of higher education, when the first HUB students reached high-school graduation, Ben realized that there were some students, who could do well in a competitive academic environment like Cranbrook, if properly chosen and financial aid could be provided. His idea proved highly successful. Starting with two students in 1967, today more than 200 students have graduated from Cranbrook Schools and entered higher education.

A small, but very committed group of parents staged fund-raisers, the first called "Soulfest One", followed by “Soulfest Two” and “Soulfest Three” and bake sales. It proved to be a great opportunity to combine the talents of HUB parents with our local supporters. Among other events was a softball game between the program's faculty and the Detroit Lions "All-Stars", who lived on the Cranbrook campus for their summer training.

Twenty-five years ago Ben Snyder concluded an article for the October 1973 issue of Independent School with these words:
"One day we will point with pardonable pride to alumni cut from a different fabric who will contribute significantly to making America a better place for us all.... Many independent schools are heading in this direction, though there is still much work to do. The hope is that one day our institutions will be remembered by history precisely for their efforts in the development of educational access — efforts that began in the 1960s, took tentative strides in the last decades of the twentieth century, and finally blossomed in the new millennium. Programs like HUB prove it can and should be done.”
Though officially retired in 1990, Ben continued as a member of the HUB Advisory Board and was a valued counselor to many until his passing in April of 2017.

Mr. Snyder is remembered fondly by HUB alumni, former HUB staff, Cranbrook alumni, faculty and staff who had the opportunity to learn from him, as well as by the thousands of students who have been touched by the HUB program in its 50+ year existence. Without his guidance, sacrifice, and efforts, HUB would not be here today.

The entire HUB family is thankful for his vision, love, dedication and patience.

A letter from the Snyder family regarding Mr. Snyder's passing can be found here.