By Logan McGrady, ’13. Photos by Benjamin Foote.
In a historic moment for the University, The Alumni Association hosted President Mark Schlissel in front of a packed crowd of alumni at the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit. The member-only event was the first in a series introducing Schlissel to alumni.
“From the day my position was announced, alums came out of the woodwork,” Schlissel said. “Everyone rushed to me to tell me their Michigan story and share their excitement. 550,000 alumni? That’s just incredible and every one of them is passionate.”
Dana Davis, ’03, is a University of Michigan Black Alumni board member and stressed the importance of the Detroit location.
“It means so much that the Alumni Association would even host an event here in the city. As a native Detroiter, I can recall a time when this wouldn’t have been in consideration. So it is truly an exciting opportunity to be involved in something like this.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan welcomed Schlissel on behalf of the city. The two have been in close talks, even visiting Schlissel at his home. He spoke highly of the new university leader.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan with LEAD Scholar Richard Plowden and President Schlissel.
“When I look at the way the President has handled himself—with measured and thoughtful statements—he is handling the presidency in a way that should make us all feel proud,” Duggan said.
Duggan has been working closely with another alumnus, former Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr, ’79, JD’83. As Kevyn Orr prepares to leave the city, Duggan reflected on their time together. “It gives you a sense of the reach to see someone who I haven’t seen in probably 30 years and we come back and we end up working in offices next to each other.”
While U-M’s powerful alumni network has been working to run the city, an alumni startup introduced Schlissel to the D.
President Schlissel explained that he spent two weeks exploring his new home state, including Detroit. He went on a tour with D:hive, a local non-profit advancing the city. “Detroit in particular is amazing,” Schlissel said of his state-wide exploration. “We saw not just the fancy areas… but Detroit—to understand it and get more of an impression than the one you get from the New York Times. That’s when we fell in love.”
President Schlissel with Alumni Association LEAD Scholars.
He would reiterate his commitment to students and diversity in his remarks.
“I want to ensure that the University is affordable and accessible for all students. Students of all experiences and backgrounds should feel like they have a place in our community.”
Before the event, Schlissel met with LEAD Scholars from the Alumni Association—highly achieving, underrepresented students. As the students filed in, Schlissel displayed his student-focus and broke away from a conversation with the mayor to engage with the students.
Regent Kathy White joined Schlissel in welcoming the LEAD Scholars.
“It’s great to be celebrating with and introducing our new president Mark Schlissel to the community. I’m also very excited to meet the LEAD Scholars. They are outstanding people and students and it’s an incredible opportunity to spend some time with them.”
Richard Plowden, a Detroit native and LEAD scholar studying political science, delivered an impassioned speech about his hometown and U-M.
LEAD Scholar Richard Plowden.
“Detroit is not Gotham City, and it doesn’t need a Batman. It needs great programs like the LEAD Scholars program that gives kids like me—kids not of privilege, but of opportunity—a chance to go to U-M.”
His closing remarks summed up the need for this event perfectly.
“It doesn’t stop at a Michigan degree. Not for me. I was born in Detroit, I was raised in Detroit. And who am I to turn my back on it? Detroit alumni have given me internships and job opportunities. If alumni can give a young man from Detroit a chance to make something of myself, who am I not to give back to my city?”