With thanks to Mike Ilitch
As Detroit mourns the loss of a self-made, hometown entrepreneur whose vision for the city will continue to move forward even in his absence, Wayne State University joins many in expressing their gratitude for the investment Mike Ilitch and his family made in the resources of his beloved city.
Mike Ilitch and his wife Marian had no history with Wayne State. They did not attend the university, nor did any of their children. But they recognized the fact that if Detroit was going to once again become a world-class city, it needed a strong research university of opportunity and innovation, and that university was worthy of support.
First, they gave $8.5 million to strengthen the Department of Surgery at the School of Medicine in 2014. The gift created the Ilitch Chair for Surgical Innovation and established a fund to support research and development in surgical technologies. In recognition of the Ilitches' generosity, the department was renamed the Michael and Marian Ilitch Department of Surgery.
"We think of this as an investment in the future of health care that will support a great educational institution and benefit the people of Detroit, the state of Michigan and beyond," Mike Ilitch said at the time.
The following year, as the Ilitch family’s vision for The District Detroit began to take shape just north of downtown, they once again saw the need to support education and they did so in a big way. In October of 2015, Wayne State announced a $40 million gift from Mike and Marian Ilitch to build a new, state-of-the-art business school facility in Detroit, the largest gift in the history of the university and one that ranked in the top ten gifts ever to name a public business school in the United States.
In recognition of the Ilitches' generosity, and with the insistence of Mrs. Ilitch, the school was named the Mike Ilitch School of Business. The new building, currently under construction, will be located on the southwest corner of Woodward Avenue and Temple Street, extending the footprint of Wayne State’s campus south into The District Detroit.
"Business education at Wayne State will be transformed through the generosity of Mike and Marian Ilitch," Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson said about the gift. "Students will have unmatched access to the companies and industries evolving in Detroit, along with internships, networking and employment opportunities, all while contributing to the city’s renewal."
Though Mike Ilitch will not see the building that was named for him, the city he loved—Detroit, Michigan—will continue to benefit from his support as generations of new entrepreneurs and innovators learn at the Ilitch School, and are inspired by his example. His example of building a business, creating jobs, reaching for championships and giving back.
"Mike Ilitch was a visionary leader whose lifelong investments in Detroit helped us become the comeback city we are today," said Robert Forsythe, dean of the Mike Ilitch School of Business. "Our school, which will forever bear his name, our university and our city have benefited immeasurably from his intellectual and financial contributions."
Of his family's support for Wayne State, Mike Ilitch said: "A world-class city must have world-class educational resources. We’re thrilled to continue doing everything we can to bring more opportunities and educational experiences to Detroit."
Thank you, Mr. I.