Ida Belle Austin, namesake of the Austin Scholarship Fund, passed away at 110 years old

Five people standing around one seated person.
(Back Row Left to Right) Recipient of the Austin Scholarship; George Johnson;
Dean Dave Williams; Hazel Austin, daughter of Ida and Richard; Frank Ross; (Seated) Ida Belle Austin 

It saddens us to write about the passing of Ida Belle Austin. Austin was born on December 21, 1912, and passed away peacefully in her sleep at her home in Dearborn, MI, on June 10, 2023. She was 110, making her Michigan’s most recent super centenarian. 

Austin’s husband, Richard H. Austin, was the first African American elected as Michigan’s Secretary of State and is the longest serving secretary of state in Michigan’s history. He was also the first black CPA in the state of Michigan. 

Ida Belle Austin was a remarkable woman in her own right. In 2009, she was named the Matriarch of the Michigan Democratic Party and was a lifetime member of the Detroit Branch NAACP, Booker T Washington Business Association, League of Women Voters, and National Council of Negro Women. In addition, Austin was the 1st Black District Manager of the Girl Scouts of Southeast Michigan. 

Ida and her husband established two scholarship funds and a lecture series at the Mike Ilitch School of Business through the Austin Fund for Excellence in Accounting and the Richard H. & Ida B. Austin Endowed Scholarship in Accounting.   

“Ida Belle Austin will be dearly missed,” said Dean Virginia Kleist. “The Austins have had a generational impact on our city and our school. Their story has inspired others to pursue careers in accounting and government, and they used their resources to create opportunities so others could more easily follow in their footsteps. Their dedication to fostering a culture of equity and inclusion serve as a model for how to use our abilities to make the world a better place.” 

Randolph “Randy” Paschke, former chair of the Ilitch School of Business accounting department, knew the Austin’s personally, and commented on the news of Ida’s passing.  

“Over the ten years I served as Accounting Chair, and in subsequent years I had the opportunity to get to know Mrs. Austin and her family. She was very supportive and active, Mrs. Austin came to all events where students were honored with Austin scholarships, and the annual Austin lectures we held every February highlighting Black accounting history makers, most of whom she knew personally. 

“What Mrs. Austin experienced during her 110 years is an amazing story that I wanted to help her share with our students, and she very willingly did that. I feel fortunate to have been able to know her and learn about her life and spend time with her. She and her husband made a difference for all of us, and she is a treasure who will be missed.” 

Memorial contributions can be made to the Richard H. and Ida B. Austin Endowed Scholarship in Accounting at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business through the following link:

The viewing was held on Friday, June 16 at the James H. Cole Home for Funerals. The funeral was held on Saturday, June 17 at 11:00 at Metropolitan Baptist Church.

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