Category: Who's Who In Black Detroit Written by Michigan Chronicle Staff
CEO and Senior Marketing Consultant
Bankable Marketing Strategies, LLC
BANKABLE, WITH A TOUCH OF JAZZ
By: Donald James
For more than 25 years, Sharon Banks has exemplified the essence of a marketing communications professional. With an impressive portfolio of skills and expertise, Banks' marketing fingerprints have been attached to numerous local and national marketing projects and campaigns in the public, private, education, and non-profit sectors.
As CEO and senior marketing consultant of Bankable Marketing Strategies, LLC, Banks oversees the planning, creation and facilitation of services in the areas of strategic planning, marketing communications, media relations, stakeholder engagement, advertising, and issues management. Originally founded in 1998 as Banks Marketing Group, the company evolved to become Bankable Marketing Strategies, LLC in 2009. "I changed the name to better reflect the measurable outcomes of the services that we were offering to our clients," said Banks. "The name aligns with what we do to develop strategies our clients can count on to get desired results."
MONIQUE BUTLER, M.D.
Vice President, Medical Affairs
A LONG LIFE PASSION FULLFILLED
By: Damon Autry
When most 2nd graders were having difficulty figuring out which cartoon to watch, Monique Butler was busy dissecting star fish, guinea pigs and earth worms in science class. It was her deep-seated interest in biology that fueled this activity—an activity that would have presumably mortified perhaps every one of her classmates. Butler would even play doctor with her two sisters as a way of expressing her life's desire, even at such a young age. "I knew I wanted to be a physician," Butler says. "I had such a love for science."
Butler grew up in Inkster in a home full of love, high expectations and encouragement. Her parents wanted Butler and her two sisters to have better lives than they did, and her mother and father discussed it with them regularly. “My dad really believed in that because that’s how he was raised. My mom's consistent motto was you can do all things through Christ who strengthens us."
AARON P. DWORKIN
Founder and President, The Sphinx Organization
A CLASSICAL LIFE OF MUSIC…PERSONIFIED
By: Donald James
Aaron P. Dwokin has been featured in People and Newsweek Magazines, showcased on prominent national news television programs, served on President Obama’s National Arts Policy Committee and National Council on the Arts, and has received a bevy of other honors and awards. Yet, for Dworkin, one of the nation’s premier classical violinists and leading advocates of youth classical music education, he remains humbled and committed to what he loves most: empowering people of color through classical music.
As founder and president of the Sphinx Organization, Dworkin heads the leading national arts organization that focuses on youth development and diversity in classical music. Since its inception in 1996, the Detroit-based organization, under the guidance of Dworkin, has awarded more than $300,000 in prizes and scholarships to young people in the arts. The organization takes great pride in showcasing young classical musicians of color through an all-African-American and Latino Sphinx Symphony. Through its various educational and community programs, the Sphinx Organization impacts the classical music development of more than 35,000 youths annually, across the nation, and many more through various broadcasts.
Painter, Sculptor, and Urban Environmental Artist
FROM HEIDELBERG ST. TO THE WORLD
By: Donald James
Tyree Guyton is known worldwide as the mastermind and creator of the Heidelberg Project, an urban indoor/outdoor gallery of bold artwork, sculptures, and discarded items affixed to vacant houses, vacant lots, old cars, and just about everything else available along a two-block stretch of Heidelberg St., on Detroit’s east side. Through his 1986 artistic creation, Guyton has drawn national and international attention to the neglected neighborhood, in hopes that discussions will be held as to how his community, as well as similar communities city-wide, can be revitalized.
Guyton admits that there was a lot of opposition to his vision and subsequent artwork that transformed Heidelberg St. to look like no other street in the world. He had on-going battles with city government across several mayoral administrations, and even felt opposition from some area residents who opposed his audacious work. Nevertheless, Guyton persevered to artistically transform Heidelberg St. to new heights.
JOI M. HARRIS
Vice President, Gas Operations
PLANNED FOR SUCCESS
By: Damon Autry
Trying to determine their life’s mission is most often a daunting task for young people. Candidly, it can be a chore for older adults as well. But on the rare occasion a young person focuses in on a specific career discipline, the results can be enormously successful and fulfilling. Joi Harris is such a person.
Harris displayed a healthy interest in engineering dating back to her elementary school days. Consequently, her parents got her involved in DAPCEP (Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program) starting in the 6th grade. Harris participated in the program from that point through high school, and she found it to be a richly rewarding experience.
THE CANVASS OF THE BLACK MALE EXPERIENCE
By Carmen Carter
His muse …. the canvass of the black male experience, a story often untold and a people under shadowed. Bill Harris’ lightning rod for his love for writing sparked from his desire to continue a family tradition of storytelling. He was young and innocent without a story to convey and yet was intrigued and reaped the benefits of hearing a real-life story from the beginning to the end. He too wanted to tell stories, pursue a life filled with art formations.
The foundation for his 40 years of literary experience has roots in Cass Tech High School and Highland Park Community College. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wayne State University. Harris is a renowned literary artist whose works as a playwright, poet, critic and novelist have been documented nationwide.
STEPHEN D. HARRIS
Molina Healthcare of Michigan, Inc
PATHWAYS TO BETTER OUTCOMES
By: Damon Autry
Being the youngest sibling can carry with it a sense of acquiescence, as older brothers and sisters often attempt to play the dual role of sibling and parent—tossing orders and instructions to their youthful siblings. Fortunately for Stephen D. Harris, president of Molina Healthcare in Troy, that issue never fully took root during his childhood. Harris grew up on the northwest side of Detroit with an older sister and older brother. While he mirrored and keenly focused on the deeds of his older brother, it was his sister that really forged a blueprint for Harris’ future. “I had the opportunity to learn from many of their successes and mistakes,” he says of his siblings. “But my sister was the first person in the family to go to college, so she served as a big role model for me in that regard.”
DAVID L. JOHNSON
Vice President, Customer Service
A PASSION FOR SERVICE
By: Damon Autry
Everyone is a customer at one time or another everyday, so customer service has a heightened sense of importance in today’s marketplace. Indeed, ensuring all customers are satisfied with the products or services they receive is a laborious task, but those businesses that view customer service as more than just a department are on the fast track to gaining consumers’ continued gratitude.
David Johnson, vice president of customer service at DTE Energy, understands this concept. Customer service is his passion. He realizes it’s a dynamic relationship whereby organizations have to maintain a keen focus on the value of their customers. “Our customers’ expectations are always in the forefront of our minds,” Johnson says. “Keeping up with those expectations set forth by our customers can be a challenge at times. But our senior leadership team has really taken a pro-customer position, and we’ve placed a lot of emphasis, time and resources to improve how we interact with them.”
JESSICA CARE MOORE
MAKING ART WORK
By: Amber L. Tucker
Mastery over the spoken word is a gift and a talent. Few have accomplished this feat with the grace, finesse and power that jessica Care moore has throughout her expansive career. Moore is a world-renowned poet/publisher/activist/rock star/playwright and actor. She is one of the youngest living Apollo Legends, winning on the coveted Showtime at the Apollo five times in a row and opening the door for her to be able to make a living solely on her art.
“I live and breath it [language] and it’ a blessing to be able to say that. It’s not always easy to make a living off of your art.”
Chief Financial Officer
Wayne County, Michigan
FINANCING DREAMS WITH INTEGRITY
By: Amber L. Tucker
Carla Sledge is the chief financial officer of the Charter County of Wayne, Michigan. During her tenure, she has implemented numerous comprehensive effectiveness programs, which resulted in cost containment improvements. One of her most significant achievements was the roll out of the County’s financial application that resolved budget needs, replaced outdated applications requiring extensive reworking and created a fully integrated system capable of supporting a one-customer process.
Sledge has been in the finance world for twenty-five years. However, growing up she had a very different career goal in mind.
MAUREEN LOUISE STAPLETON
Chair, Public Lighting Authority
Founder and President, Community Enterprises LLC
SHOWING DETROITERS THE LIGHT AND THE WAY
By: Donald James
As a young girl growing up on the west side of Detroit, Maureen Louise Stapleton told friends that she would one day become the city’s first female mayor. She also told them that she wanted to be the next Barbara Jordan, the Texas Civil Rights advocate, who in 1973, became the first African-American woman from the South to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. While Stapleton, as an adult, has not served as mayor of the Motor City, yet, her impact on Detroit and its citizenry has been profound and would make Jordan proud.
Stapleton currently chairs the city’s new Public Lighting Authority (PLA), a five-member board of Detroit residents whose task is to develop and support plans to improve public lighting in the city. She was appointed by Mayor Dave Bing and does not receive a salary for her services.
CYNTHIA TAUEG, DHA, MPH, RN
Vice President, Ambulatory & Community Health Care Services
St. John Providence Health System
STRIVING FOR HEALTHIER COMMUNITIES
By: Lori Ella Miller
Dr. Cynthia Taueg came from a family of educators, so it was only natural that she thought she too would become a teacher, but life had other plans for her. It was her love for science and biology that led her to a career in health care. Taueg began her career as a registered nurse, graduating from Detroit’s Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree. She went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Public Health from The University of Michigan and a Doctorate in Health Administration from Central Michigan University.
Currently, Dr. Cynthia Taueg serves as the Vice President of Ambulatory and Community Health Care Services for St. John Providence Health System in Detroit, Michigan.
Director of Administration
PREPARING FOR PROSPERITY
By: Amber L. Tucker
E’Lois Thomas guides her life by the motto she received years ago from her pastor, that “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!” She has been a planner since she was a child with a plan to succeed! Having grown up on the North End of Detroit, Thomas benefitted greatly from the extracurricular activities at Delores Bennett Park.
“I lived on the corner of Smith and Beaubien. I remember free lunches and being at the park; I’m no stranger of bullets flying by,” however she says, “There are always opportunities.”
CARLA WALKER MILLER
President and CEO
Walker-Miller Energy Services
A WOMAN OF POWER
By: Amber L. Tucker
Mrs. Carla Walker-Miller is an energy industry veteran, and a dedicated advocate for residential and commercial energy efficiency. In 2000 she formed Walker-Miller Energy Services (WMES), an energy efficiency and energy optimization program service company, as well as a distributor for energy related products in the utility industry. Serving as president and CEO, she has led the organization to tremendous growth in energy services.
However, before she became a leader in energy efficiency in Detroit, she was born the eighth child out of twelve to a poor but stable two-parent household in Nashville, Tennessee.
Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer
Henry Ford Health System
FROM DISHWASHER TO C-SUITE
By: Damon Autry
The successes we garner in life and the necessary mindset we develop along the way are often the result of experiences that can be traced back to our formative years. For Randy Walker, vice president and chief diversity officer at Henry Ford Health System (HFHS), that is indeed the case.
Walker grew up on Detroit’s west side as one of nine children. The family’s economic resources were in short supply, but that never stopped young Randy Walker from wanting more in life. Consequently, he started working as a 10-year-old newspaper carrier and later as a stock boy at a neighborhood grocery store. “Working at such a young age gave me independence and a way to have my own source of income to support some of my own personal spending desires,” Walker says. He then cracks a slight grin. “I made some good money, too.”
Last Updated on Friday, 11 October 2013 14:00
Category: Who's Who In Black Detroit Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
The Hollywood & Vine Recovery Center’s Care for Kids Program hosts star-studded event in honor of community leaders.
The honorable Craig Strong was presented with the Man of the Year Humanitarian Award at the Care for Kids Celebrity Benefit hosted by The Hollywood & Vine Recovery Center at Club Avalon Hollywood. Befitting the well-respected and well-known Judge Strong from the Wayne County Circuit Court Criminal Division, entertainment industry stars Freda Payne, the Main Ingredient, Lenny Williams and Cuba Gooding, Sr., performed their popular hits and paid tribute to Judge Strong’s work in the community throughout the country.
Under the Hollywood & Vine Recovery Center is The Care For Kids program, an affordable substance-abuse treatment center for children from age 7 to 19. Having experienced the drug haven streets of Detroit, Dr. Gloria Montgomery, PhD, and Joan Wendorf, CMS, moved to California and founded non-profit organization to make the world a better place and bring light into the darkness. They have been an active asset to society for over 45 years.
“I enjoy traveling and speaking at schools and before youth groups across the country, in Canada, Europe, Germany, South Africa, and throughout the Caribbean Islands,” said Judge Strong.
In Southern California, he has spoken at Dorsey High School, the Marcus Garvey Academy, and distributes toys for Christmas at churches and community centers.
The recipient of numerous proclamations and awards, Judge Strong is the official ambassador of Steve Harvey’s Neighborhood Awards (formerly the Hoodie Awards), which takes place annually in Las Vegas. He has made appearances on several television shows as well as done guest spots in five motion picture productions. He was cast as a judge in the ABC series “Detroit 187.”
An Honorary Award was presented to recording industry legend Al Bell. From chairman of Stax Records, and subsequently president of Motown, Bell is recognized as being responsible for helping to shape the American music scene for over 40 years. Now chairman/chief executive officer of Al Bell Presents, an Intellectual Property Management Company that has established a new paradigm for the recorded music, broadcast music, and entertainment industries.
For more information, visit http://www.hollywoodandvinerecoverycenter.com.
Judge Craig S. Strong was appointed referee in the Traffic & Ordinance Division of Detroit’s Recorder’s Court at age 30. Later that year he was elected judge of the Detroit Recorder’s Court, the youngest to serve in this capacity. He was re-elected four times and serves as a judge in the Wayne County Circuit Court Criminal Division.
Judge Strong became an officer of the Wolverine Bar Association and its youngest president at age 30. He later became one of the founding members of the Association of Black Judges of Michigan and served as president. He has also served on the National Bar Association Board of Governors, and is former chair of the Judicial Council.
As part of the National Bar Association’s delegation to South Africa, Strong met with Black lawyers from many countries to develop an International Bar Association. He is a retired commander in the United States Navy Reserve. During a five-year tour in the Navy Marine Corp Trial Judiciary, he was the only African-American judge presiding over special courts marshal.
A 33-degree Prince Hall Mason, he is a lifetime member of the NAACP, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and the Navy Reserve Officer Association.
Being active in numerous civic organizations, he has served on the board of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the largest of its type in the United States, and was a founding board member of the International African World Festive. He founded and still chairs the Black History Month membership drive, which has generated thousands of new members to help keep the doors of the museum open. He has also served on the boards of the Westside Citizens for the Retarded and the Black United Fund of Michigan.
Believing in world peace and justice, the judge participates in the US State Department sponsored International Visitors Leadership Program and routinely hosts its visitors. This year he has shared his experiences and insights with delegations from France and Azerbaijan.
Judge Strong received his Bachelor’s degree from Howard University and his Jurist Doctor Degree from Detroit College of Law, now Michigan State School of Law.
“For years Judge Strong has been working to improve the lives of youth,” said Dr. Gloria Montgomery, founder of Hollywood-based Care for Kids and a native of Detroit. “When 19 inner city boys from Detroit were recruited to form a scout unit, he singlehandedly within one week raised enough money to purchase 125 uniforms.”
Mistress of ceremonies Luenell, a comedian and actress, entertained the sold-out audience and referred to Judge Strong as the best dressed judge in the country. U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters presented the award to Strong. “Judge Strong believes in the importance of appearance and works with the Jackets for Jobs program teaching young men how to dress appropriately for the occasion,” said Waters. “I have visited Judge Strong’s home and his closet is a masterpiece filled with custom suits.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 July 2013 16:50
Category: Who's Who In Black Detroit Written by Damon Autry
It is one thing to have tremendous business acumen and quite another to discipline it, master it and apply it with great skill within the confines of the business university. That takes keen intellect, razor-sharp focus and a deep and abiding desire to succeed. Simply put, there aren’t many things more impressive than a great business mind that fused with a passion to be the best. This narrative is the Cliffs Notes version of Gregory Jackson, president and chief executive officer of Prestige Automotive Group and Jackson Automotive Management. The full version is displayed every day as he leads one of the most successful African American-owned car dealership franchises in the country.
Jackson’s success is not happenstance. It’s the culmination of wanting the most out of life and doing the things necessary to attain it. “I’ve always had a strong desire to be more than the world said I could be,” the Detroit native says. Growing up in a rugged neighborhood on the city’s west side near Linwood Ave. and Joy Road., Jackson had a paper route for seven years. He’d read the newspaper every day from cover to cover, learning about Detroit-area business moguls Al Taubman, Max Fisher and others. “Reading about them gave me an appreciation and a greater understanding that there was something bigger in the world than Linwood.”
Jackson found big things indeed. After working in corporate America for several years, he realized he wasn’t quite cut out for it. He concluded that being an entrepreneur was his only option to achieving the kind of success he envisioned. While in the midst of searching for that one entrepreneurial opportunity, Jackson owned and operated a gourmet cookie business; a small accounting firm and he invested in real estate. It wasn’t until he entered General Motors’ Minority Dealer Training Program that he found his niche. After completing the program in 1989, he worked at several dealerships in various capacities while at the same time searching for a dealership to buy.
In September of 1993, he purchased Prestige Pontiac-Oldsmobile in Mount Morris, Michigan. The organization grew, becoming one of the most successful African American-owned businesses in the country. When Prestige Automotive Group grossed $1.67 billion in sales in 2005, Jackson became the first African American to lead an auto dealership group with more than $1 billion in annual sales. His organization then became one of only three African American-owned companies to have reached yearly sales of $1 billion or more. Jackson has owned a total of 18 dealerships but had sold all but three: Mercedes-Benz of St. Clair Shores, Toyota of Warren and Courtesy Ford of Okemos. He is also one of only four African Americans in the country to own a Mercedes-Benz dealership.
Jackson says there’s no magic wand or secret to his success, just good old-fashioned hard work. “I may or may not be the smartest person in the room, but very few people will outwork me. So when others are asleep, I’ll be up getting the job done,” he said.
The married father of two earned an accounting degree from Morris Brown College and a master’s in finance and marketing from Atlanta University’s Graduate School of Business.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 11:14
Category: Who's Who In Black Detroit Written by Mario Williams
Journalist Fox 2 News
A CAREER IN JOURNALISM
By Kellie Walker
When it is all said and done, Al Allen will be regarded as a genuine voice of the community who tells a story without compromise and asks the questions that people in the community want answered. Fueled by his passion to be active in the world of broadcast journalism, Allen, in the 60s, began establishing his career and working toward building a foundation of success.
With a strong belief that education is where his foundation would begin, Allen studied at the Detroit College of Business and received an associate degree in business administration; he went on to study journalism at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he received a bachelor's degree. He began his broadcasting career as a news director at KOKY radio in Little Rock, Arkansas. Ultimately, he moved backed to Detroit where he worked as a reporter and news director at WCXI-AM and WGPR-FM, and as news and public affairs director at WJLB-FM. In March of 1984, Allen began reporting for WJBK Fox 2 News and even after 28 years of service, he is still motivated by reporting breaking news stories. He says, "The adrenaline is still flowing."
Allen is consistent in taking a genuine approach in all that he does which has had significant impact on who he is as a reporter. He has seen the scope of media change over the course of his career; however, he has exhibited an unwavering devotion to sincerely reporting stories that are meaningful, informative and useful in guiding the Detroit community in the right direction. He prides himself with being able to use limited information to pull together a story that is relatable, interesting and news worthy. Allen explains, "You control the story, don't let the story control you."
Allen has diligently worked to build credibility as a journalist; he makes it a priority to be visible in the community by fulfilling requests to speak at engagements, being in attendance at community events, and making himself available for the people in Metro Detroit. "I am lucky to have been able to remain and work in the same community for all these years. With broadcast journalism, you become a member of the families of the people in the community and I thank God that I have been able to do this job and do it well," says Allen.
He has received recognition on both local and national levels for his work and dedication to the industry, which includes awards from United Press International, the Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists. He also received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for his work on a documentary that examines the issues surrounding black-on-black crime in Detroit. Crime by Color, Black on Black investigated issues that influence an increase in crime rates in the black community inclusive of alcoholism, economic hardship, the lack of social education, the disparity between job availability for blacks versus other groups, and general trials and tribulations experienced by people of color.
Like most people, Allen does experience a minimal amount of regret about some decisions he's made, namely, turning down a position with NBC that would have provided him national exposure or possibly led to him becoming a network correspondent; but make no mistake, he is completely satisfied in knowing that his work with Fox 2 News has resulted in developed abilities and strong character. Journalism has been Allen's beginning, middle and will undoubtedly be his end. Allen uses the words of a colleague as incentive to continue reporting, "Your only as good as your last newscast and your last newscast wasn't that good!"
Chief Operating Officer Ignite Social Media
THE COO WITH THE
By Tamekia Ashford
She will roll up her sleeves with the best of them; from flying to meetings in New York or North Carolina to servicing clients and
even helping with kitchen duty at the office, Deidre Lambert-Bounds has got the personal touch and has a pretty good handle on the balancing act - even if she says it is always a little off.
Bounds wears many hats of significance; she tackles the duties of being a wife and mom, sister and aunt, a grandmother, and friend and advisor in addition to serving as the chief operating officer (COO) of Ignite Social Media, the original social media agency that was named as one of the World's Top Social Media Marketing Firms for 2011. "I believe I'm a pretty good leader, says Bounds. "I've never asked someone to do something that I haven't done or wouldn't do."
As with any success story, Bounds' success did not happen overnight; it took time. She was trying to figure out what to do with her life. Her plans were to become a teacher, but at the age of 24 she got the opportunity to work with Brogan and Partners, a full-service advertising agency. Marci Brogan, Brogan and Partner's distinctive chief executive officer saw potential in Bounds. "It starts with an opportunity," says Bounds. "Someone gave me an opportunity and took a chance on me and thank God I was mature enough to recognize and embrace it. Throughout my career I always had someone saying, you can do it."
For the next 18 years, she would gain a life-time of experiences and travel over a significant path, which included stints in key agency positions like client service, digital, media and public relations. She also learned firsthand how to manage and run a business, how to be an effective leader and the importance of working as part of a team.
Bounds followed in her mentor's, Marcie Brogan, footsteps; worked her way up and became managing partner of Brogan and Partners. In 2010 Bounds transitioned from Brogan and Partners and went to Ignite Social Media, the sister company to Brogan. The owners of Ignite, Jim Tobin, president and Marci Brogan, chief financial officer, tapped Bounds to head up the team. Her expertise and knowledge of the business served as good fit. "It was an easy transition for me because I knew the players, trusted the players and respected the players. I believe my business partners are some of the smartest people. I'm still learning from them and very excited to learn how to manage 100- plus people."
As with anything that requires balance and/or the ability to prioritize, Bounds recognizes the importance of reflecting and reviewing those aha moments. She is the youngest of seven children; her oldest sister was diagnosed with cancer and even while facing chemo and feeling sick, never lost a sense of humor. Her sister taught her what it means to truly live in the moment. "I've learned that I'm more resilient than I ever thought I was; my sister surviving cancer and my mom dying when I was very young made me put everything into perspective."
JEFFREY G. COLLINS
Deputy Chief Executive Wayne County, Michigan
By Donald James
With some of most impressive educational and professional credentials that any attorney can have, Jeffrey G. Collins could live and work any place in America; yet he chooses to live and work in Detroit, serving the city and county where he was born and raised. These days, Collins serves as deputy chief executive officer for Wayne County, the 15th largest county in America. Appointed by County Executive Robert A. Ficano in November, 2011, Collins oversees all operations of the executive branch, while administering an annual budget of almost $2 billion. In addition, he oversees all county departments, comprised of approximately 3,000 county employees.
Appointed during a time when Wayne County was experiencing internal woes, punctuated by constant news stories that were rapidly eroding public trust, Collins brought with him a history of accomplishment amid integrity. He remembers the day last year when he received the call from Ficano. "The phone call was unsolicited," Collins explains. "However, being asked to become Wayne County's deputy chief executive officer ranks right up there in terms of professional accomplishments. I knew the position would be a challenge...but a challenge that I wanted to take on in order to help ensure that we restore public trust, have honest government, and deliver needed services to the people of Wayne County."
Prior to his county appointment, Collins had already amassed an impressive professional body of work since graduating from Northwestern University (1981) and Howard University School of Law (1984). He began his legal career with the famed law firm of Bell & Hudson, P.C. before accepting an appointment as a judge of Detroit Recorder's Courts. He subsequently was named by the Michigan Supreme Court as presiding judge of the criminal division of Wayne County Circuit Court. He was also appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Continuing his professional advancement, Collins served as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. He was appointed by President George W. Bush. Taking office soon after the horrific events of 911 in 2001, Collins established a ground-breaking initiative called B.R.I.D.G.E.S. (Building Respect in Diverse Groups to Enhance Sensitivity). "The demographics in our district were such that it had the highest number people of middle-eastern decent in the country," says Collins, who chaired the organization that became a standard for the nation. "Tensions were very high. Through B.R.I.D.G.E.S., all federal law agencies and groups worked hand-in-hand with community groups from middle-eastern communities to address critical issues such as profiling."
Following a return to the private sector, Collins, in partnership with his wife, Lois, established the law firm of Collins & Collins in Detroit in 2008. The firm specializes in white-collar criminal, contract litigation and probate legal issues of clients throughout the country. Collins continued to work with the firm until he joined Wayne County as deputy executive director.
When asked about Wayne County's most pressing needs, Collins quickly responds, "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs... because we have to make sure that people have jobs so that they can have the quality of life that they should have and enjoy, says Collins. "If we are able to establish a solid economic foundation with jobs, all of the other issues like improving public safety and education will greatly improve because of a stronger economic base."
DR. JOHN WILLIAM COVINGTON
Chancellor Education Achievement Authority of Michigan
PASSION FOR EDUCATION
By Melody Moore
Dr. John William Covington, chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan (EAA), is committed to assuring
that all students receive a quality education. "We must change the paradigm of how we deliver educational programs to students," said Covington. "We believe that low student achievement – not only in the persistently lowest achieving schools in Detroit but around the country – is primarily because our country maintains a system of public schools that we should have abandoned long ago." Covington said the traditional "one-size-fits-all" format does not meet the needs of individual students and does not meet the educational challenges that must be addressed.
"In the EAA students do not progress through school based on the amount of time that they sit in a seat, but rather based on the mastery of skills that they need to move to the next level," he said. "If we have a child that can get it done in six months, they immediately move to the next instructional level. But, if that child needs 12 months, then they can take that time before they move to the next instructional level."
Global competition is also a key focus for Covington, who says, "If we say we want our children to compete with our international counterparts, one mechanism is to assure they are educated for the same amount of time. That is why we increased our school days from Michigan's traditional 170 days to 210."
Covington, a native of Alabama, has three siblings and grew up in poverty, but his saving grace, he said, was having a parent who believed in education. "I have wanted to be a teacher since eighth grade," he said. "When I graduated from college it took me six years to break into the education system but I knew I eventually would become a teacher. While I was waiting for a teaching job, I took a job as a prison guard, which gave me an opportunity to see up close how our educational system was failing so many young men with enormous potential."
Covington holds a Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, AA Certification (for administrative leadership) and Education Specialist (EdS) degrees from Troy University. He also holds a second AA Certification and Ed.D degree from Auburn University. This year Covington completed a second doctoral degree – a Ph.D in transformational leadership and urban policy at the University of Missouri.
Prior to being appointed chancellor of the new EAA system of schools in 2011, Covington worked to reform educational systems in Alabama, Colorado and Kansas City, Missouri. In Kansas City, Covington instituted major reforms that not only kept the district from bankruptcy; it posted a balanced budget while increasing student performance on state exams by the largest rate in state history.
Earlier he achieved similar results in Alabama, where he transformed the Lowndes County Public Schools to assure that every school in the district met the Adequate Yearly Progress requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Covington has passed his love of education on to his children, Melvin, David and Simone. The married father of three has two children who work in education. His wife Wilanie is also a principal. David and his wife Marie have given Covington two granddaughters, Hunter and Hayden.
Diversity Media Manager General Motors Company
DRIVEN TO SUCCEED
By Kellie Walker
In an automotive industry with a reputation for being dominated by middle-aged white males, Brooke Ellis, a young African-American woman is leaving a meaningful impression with her work as the diversity media & multicultural manager for General Motors (GM) Company. Ellis is responsible for delivering consistent messaging for GM's brands including Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC, by connecting with diverse populations. Her most critical role is to ensure that the organization builds strong relationships with the right media partners, and external organization in an effort to effectively communicate GM's message.
Dan Akerson, General Motor's chief executive officer states that, "In today's multicultural, interconnected marketplace, we believe a diverse workforce helps us design, build and sell vehicles that best meet the needs of unique customers around the globe." Ellis has been able to bring a confident and fresh perspective to create media strategies, and along with the team, identify opportunities that specifically target multicultural consumers from the African-American, Hispanic and LGBT communities. "The real key to success in this field is having an understanding of our consumers," Ellis says.
In order to juggle overseeing multi-platform consumer media plans for the multicultural market while managing minority-owned media-vendor relationships, Ellis has to view concepts through a creative lens. She realizes that at 30, she will face some challenges establishing credibility and having her voice be heard; however, Ellis is committed to finding balance and impacting change. She is fortunate to have leadership that believes in her abilities and allows her to present ideas and follow through. Ellis had a part in implementing the Minority Media Summit, where she brought in vendors and VPs from all across the U.S. to look at GM's brands which generated business opportunities and increased spending with several key minority groups. She says, "the biggest thing is defining my purpose..., I think I've had an opportunity to be creative and I have an understanding of what my ultimate goal is."
Ellis, who was born and raised in Detroit, feels a special connection to the community and the automotive industry. She identifies her role in the community, where she is active in a variety of community organizations, and her work with GM as being a significant part of who she is. She studied marketing at Hampton University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and also completed two graduate fellowship studies at UCLA and University of Pennsylvania and subsequently moved back to her hometown.
By executing her plan to gain understanding of the markets she serves, identifying individuals that would be instrumental in helping meet her goals and being prepared to communicate her purpose, Ellis has been able to bring her ideas to fruition and haveinfluenceoverthestrategiesthatGMapplies to meet organizational goals and objectives as it applies to diversity.
They say, "age ain't nothin' but a number," and Ellis is a definitely a young woman who, despite her age, has demonstrated her leadership abilities and is gaining reverence for her work in an evolving automotive industry.
BEVERLY ANN HARRIS GRAY, ED.D.
President, Detroit Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
By Donald James
Connecting, uplifting and inspiring are just three simple words. However, under the leadership Dr. Beverly Ann Harris Gray, president of the Detroit Alumnae Chapter (DAC) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., these three words are representative of a powerful theme that continues to propel DAC to excellence. Serving as the chapter's 38th president since June, 2011, Gray has provided productive leadership to DAC, one of Delta's largest chapters with approximately 750 members. She has also been proactive in implementing the Delta's Five-Point Programmatic Thrust, a platform of missions that all Delta chapters are charged to carry out. The Five-Points are Economic Development, Educational Development, International Awareness and Involvement, Physical and Mental Health, and Political Awareness and Involvement.
Gray speaks with excitement about several community services projects that DAC carries out, such as Delta Manor, a 100-unit apartment building for seniors on Detroit's eastside. DAC has owned and operated Delta Manor for almost 25 years. "We are really proud of Delta Manor," says Gray. "We are proud to get the opportunity to interact and provide so many services to the senior residents... that is what being a Delta is about: sisterhood and providing community services."
DAC, according to Gray, is also looking forward to the fall of 2013 when it plans to open a charter school called Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy. While her term as president will have expired when the school opens, Gray says that she will continue to be involved in the educational endeavors of the school.
Gray's advice in educational matters will be well received, because prior to her leadership role with DAC she had invested more than three-decades of her life to Detroit Public Schools (DPS). Now retired, she served in such capacities as deputy superintendent, associate superintendent - human resources, executive director - division of learning and educational accountability. Perhaps her most memorable experience with DPS was service rendered as the principal of Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior High School for eight years. She began her career with DPS as a biology and chemistry teacher. Other educational experiences have included serving as an adjunct professor at Wayne State University's College of Education.
In preparation for a professional career in education, Gray earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Eastern Michigan University (EMU), where she pledged Delta. After graduation, she earned a series of advanced degrees from Wayne State University: a M.Ed. in science education, an Ed.S. in general administration supervision, and an Ed.D. in general administration and supervision.
After a remarkable 37-year-career in education, Gray retired in 2008...but is busier than ever as DAC's president. She is readying the local chapter for participation in the Delta's 100-year national anniversary celebration on January 13, 2013 in Washington, D.C., where the sorority was founded. In commemoration of the storied milestone of the country's largest African-American sorority, the Greek organization will be represented in the Rose Bowl Parade on January 1, 2013. In addition, Gray said an Olympic-style torch will be carried through 22 cities across America, representing Delta's 22 founders. "We are blessed that Detroit was selected as one of the cities that the torch will come through," says Gray. "The torch will come through Detroit on April 6, 2013...and we are just ecstatic."
President & Chief Executive Officer Global Hospitality
ROAD TO RECOVERY
By Melody Moore
Growing up in Chicago's Cabrini-Green Housing Project, LaVan Hawkins was surrounded by crime, got involved in gangs and started using drugs. But he straightened up. Hawkins has operated several companies in the restaurant industry - Urban City Foods and the Hawkins Food Group, which operated several fast food chains including Pizza Hut, Checkers (formerly known as Rally's), Burger King and the upscale establishment, Sweet Georgia Brown.
Among his portfolio, Hawkins owned fast food chains in several states across the country, generating more than $100 million annually. However, Hawkins sold his 28 Burger King locations after a court settlement. After many challenges and setbacks, Hawkins has rebounded and opened a new restaurant in downtown Detroit's Greektown, "Detroit's Cheesecake Bistro." Established as an upscale, affordable dining location, Hawkins and his partner are aiming to corner a market of eateries. Opening in the same venue as the former restaurant, Sweet Georgia Brown, the menu includes lunch items ranging from $7.99 and higher.
As a teenager, Hawkins' father died and he dropped out of high school to care for his mother. Soon, he would be introduced to the restaurant and hospitality industry – where he would spend more than 30 years of his career. Starting as a janitor in a downtown Chicago McDonald's, he later became the owner and operator of a more than $200-million business. Hawkins has faced a number of barriers in the process. In 2005 he was faced with several charges in connection with the Philadelphia City government.
Despite his life's roadblocks, Hawkins said he is determined to rise. "What I went through humbled me," Hawkins said. "It polished me, groomed me and humbled me. You can be so successful that you think you belong to the untouchables club and I ended up spending 18 months in a federal prison."
Under the Global Hospitality Group, Hawkins is revamping his restaurant prowess. After the opening of Detroit's Cheesecake Bistro, Hawkins said plans are to open at least ten more restaurants within one year. Hawkins said his business acumen is attributed to the lessons he has learned in life. "You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate," he said. "It was a great lesson, it took time to prune me and now I am coming out more excited and more committed than before."
Plans are to leave a legacy and impact on Detroit. Before the opening of his new restaurant, Hawkins plans to donate and serve nearly 5,000 people – including city workers, public officials, teachers, students and homeless people. This initiative, he said, is a way to make an investment and thank Metro Detroiters for their continued support.
"Your business is only successful when you have support from people," Hawkins said. "I want to leave a lasting impact on Detroit, that I contributed to the economy through jobs and by helping others."
DARNELL D. JACKSON
Senior Vice President Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Managing Partner of the Jackson Group
ADVISING IN A
CULTURE Of WEALTH
By Donald James
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "The true measure of a man is not determined during times of comfort and convenience, but
rather during times of conflict and controversy." For Darnell D. Jackson, senior vice president for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and managing partner of The Jackson Group (TJG), King's iconic words still resonates with truth.
While the past decade in financial services has been punctuated by unprecedented volatility and uncertainty, Jackson's steady leadership of The Jackson Group has been remarkable. He explains that The Jackson Group, which began in 1993, specializes in marketing tax-exempt municipal bonds and corporate finance debt, public retirement plans, construction of customized defined benefit plans, and retirement plan asset management.
The majority of The Jackson Group's clients are corporate executives, entertainers and some of the nation's most successful entrepreneurs. TJG also renders financial advice to non-profits, foundations, and endowment and estate entities. "TJG is a steadfast, trusted,andplanning-basedteamofprofessionals," says Jackson. "We manage to attract a client base that reflects the essence of who we are...and as professionals, we are driven by delivering service and financialsolutioninthetoughestofeconomictime."
Since its inception, The Jackson Group has been responsible for more than $9.5 billion of public and numerous corporate finance projects in southeast Michigan, inclusive of the Ford Field (Home of the NFL Detroit Lions) and the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne Country Airport (DTW). Jackson has been the advisor of record to some of the nation's largest pension and retirement plans.
Throughout his professional career, Jackson has received numerous awards; including the 2012 Five Star Wealth Manager Award, the National Association of Securities Professionals Measure of Excellence Award and the 2012 T.LA.B. Diversity Award. He also serves on the Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Diversity Council, and is a member of the Consulting Group's Advisory Development Initiative and Business Owners Advisory Council.
A native of Detroit, Jackson began his career in financial services at Manufacturer's National Bank, which later became Comerica Bank. After working as a banker for five years, his career focus shifted to financial services and he joined Merrill Lynch, where he spent more than 25 years prior to joining Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in March, 2009.
To prepare for his amazing career, Jackson attended the University of Michigan where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics. He did post graduate studies at the University of Detroit. In addition, he completed the Wharton School of Business Executive Training Program.
In addition to having a strong educational foundation and a prosperous career, Jackson is happily married. He and his wife, Collette, have been married for 32 years and have two daughters: Kristian, a graduate of Florida A&M University and Kelly, who currently attends FAMU.
Additionally, Jackson cherishes every opportunity to help empower children. "Many people say that the children are our future...if so, we should invest in them," says Jackson. "We should educate them and create in them a moral fiber that is so strong that they can't go wrong. The Financial Literacy Program at the Plymouth Educational Center in partnership with the African American Museum aims to do just that. It is on this foundation that The Jackson Group is motivated."
President and Chief Executive Officer Prestige Automotive Group and Jackson Automotive Management
World-Class Hard Worker
By Damon Autry
It is one thing to have tremendous business acumen and quite another to discipline it, master it and apply it with great skill within the confines of the business universe. That takes keen intellect, razor-sharp focus and a deep and abiding desire to succeed. Simply put, there aren't many things more impressive than a great business mind that's fused with a passion to be the best. This narrative is the Cliffs Notes version of Gregory Jackson, president and chief executive officer of Prestige Automotive Group and Jackson Automotive Management. The full version is displayed everyday as he leads one of the most successful African American-owned car dealership franchises in the country.
Jackson's success is not happenstance. It's the culmination of wanting the most out of life and doing the things necessary to attain it. "I've always had a strong desire to be more than the world said I could be," the Detroit native says. Growing up in a rugged neighborhood on the city's west side near Linwood Ave. and Joy Rd., Jackson had a paper route for seven years. He'd read the newspaper every day from cover to cover, learning about Detroit-area business moguls Al Taubman, Max Fisher and others. "Reading about them gave me an appreciation and a greater understanding that there was something bigger in the world than Linwood."
Jackson found big things indeed. After working in corporate America for several years, Jackson realized he wasn't quite cut out for it. He concluded that being an entrepreneur was his only option to achieving the kind of success he envisioned. While in the midst of searching for that one entrepreneurial opportunity, Jackson owned and operated a gourmet
cookie business; a small accounting firm and he invested in real estate. It wasn't until he entered General Motors' Minority Dealer Training Program that he found his niche. After completing the program in 1989, he worked at several dealerships in various capacities while at the same time searching for a dealership to buy.
In September of 1993, he purchased Prestige Pontiac-Oldsmobile in Mount Morris, Michigan. The organization grew from there, becoming one of the most successful African American- owned businesses in the country. When Prestige Automotive Group grossed $1.67 billion in sales in 2005, Jackson became the first African American to lead an auto dealership group with more than $1 billion in annual sales. His organization then became one of only three African American-owned companies to have reached yearly sales of $1 billion or more. Jackson has owned a total of 18 dealerships but has sold all but three: Mercedes-Benz of St. Clair Shores, Toyota of Warren and Courtesy Ford of Okemos. He is also one of only four African Americans in the country to own a Mercedes-Benz dealership.
Jackson says there's no magic wand or secret to his success; just good old-fashioned hard work. "I may or may not be the smartest person in the room, but very few people will outwork me. So when others are asleep, I'll be up getting the job done."
The married father of two earned an accounting degree from Morris Brown College and a master's degree in finance and marketing from Atlanta University's Graduate School of Business.
LOUIS E. JAMES
President & Chief Executive Officer Solutions for Energy Efficient Logistics (SEEL) JASCO International, JATDCO, QIC
A Super Entreprenuer
By Donald James
In the ever-changing world of business, there are entrepreneurs...and there are "super entrepreneurs." Louis E. James is the latter. For more than three decades, James has masterfully owned and operated an array of companies that primarily service the automotive industry, and more recently, the energy industry. With vast knowledge in such areas as operations, sales, marketing, mergers and acquisitions, he has become one of the nation's most savvy, innovative, and successful "ultra entrepreneurs" - black or white.
One of James' latest business ventures is Solutions for Energy Efficient Logistics (SEEL). Since its inception in 2009, SEEL, an energy program management company, has raised national eyebrows so much that the company received the coveted "Andromeda Star of Energy Award" for outstanding work in energy conservation. With James at the helm, SEEL is one of the first and largest companies of its type in the nation that's owned and operated by an African American.
In addition to SEEL, James owns and operates JASCO International, a progressive chain management solutions company; JATDCO, a precision stamping, assembly and inventory management company; QIC, a business that provides quality containment, sorting, inspection and engineering service; and JAMCAM, a maintenance repair and operations company. Ever the visionary entrepreneur, James also heads a few non-automotive and energy ventures, such as an 8,000-goat farm in his home state of Mississippi. "When I look for opportunities, there are always experts and subject matter experts out there," he explains. "I run companies, so I go out and find the best people in their areas of expertise and help develop and train them to become great operators for my companies."
In addition to overseeing his various business interests, James also serves as chairman of the powerful Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority. In this capacity, he promotes Detroit as a freight transportation and distribution hub for the Midwest sector of the United States, as well as for southwestern Ontario (Canada) businesses. Before his appointment, he served as vice-chair (four years) and on the Port's board of directors (eight years). "Detroit was founded as a port," says James. "We want to take it back to its proper place in the global industry as being a great port that will play a pivotal role in the resurgence of Detroit. We are also looking for ways to develop the entire riverfront."
James' quest to do well in business can be traced to his hometown of Starkville, Mississippi, where growing up, he and his siblings were encouraged to seek education as a passport to success. With business on his mind, he entered Mississippi Valley State University to prepare for the future. After earning a bachelor's degree in business administration, he joined the United States Army and served in Vietnam. Following an honorable discharge, he moved to Chicago before coming to Detroit...and as they say, the rest is history.
While success in business is a huge part of the Louis E. James' story; it's not the entire story. Family helps define who he is. He is married to Pamela James, Ph.D. The couple has two adult daughters and two grandchildren.
Director Wayne County Department of Health and Human Services
PASSION FOR HEALTH EQUITY
By Melody Moore
The fifth of 13 children, Killins saw her mother as a consumer of mental health services. Due to those challenges, the Detroit native and her 12 other siblings were raised by her aunt. As director of the Wayne County Department of Health and Human Services, Killins is now able to help others who are in similar situations by establishing a structure for services for Wayne County families and businesses.
"My biological mother was a mental health consumer, so being the director of the 13th largest county's health department gives me an opportunity to share my passion with people." Part of the reason why I am here is because I had a strong aunt who took in her nieces and nephews," said Killins. But during those trying times, Killins learned valuable life lessons including how to advocate for yourself, sharing with others, not being bullied, customer service, teambuilding and democracy. "In a family that large you learn a lot of life lessons. I learned early on in life that you can't allow people to take advantage without finding out what you can do and not getting help for what you can't do."
Killins oversees the county's largest department, which operates at $700 million and includes eight divisions. These divisions are the county's Public Health, Mental Health, Patient Care Management System, Wayne County Head Start, Jail Health Services, Medical Examiner's Office, Wayne County Library, Wayne County HIPAA Compliance and Wayne County Health Choice.
In 2003 Killins joined the department as deputy director and was promoted to director in 2006. Under her leadership, she has focused on streamlining services and providing innovative ways of reaching their consumers. "We are looking into more evolution as the economy changes so should the way we deliver services. We have included a one- stop shop, so if a consumer enters the mental health department, we will also inform them of public health services or other services they need."
She has also worked for the State of Michigan for 23 years. The Detroit Public School graduate holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a Master of Business Administration degree in health care management from Oakland University. Community service is very important to Killins, for the past three years, she has served as president of the Friends of Osborn Alumni Association, where high school seniors were awarded scholarships to provide them access to many opportunities. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Personally, Killins plans to teach courses in human services or access to healthcare and to spend more time in her church, Detroit Love Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. "I enjoy people and I understand what health services they need. I am always interested in learning about resources so when I meet people I am able to share those resources with them and I can talk about work 24 hours a day."
As a proud mother, Killins' 26-year-old son will be attending law school in the fall, which is a dream she has always wanted to pursue. Killins said her life's inspiration is from a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane." She made a career of pursuing a passion – helping others obtain access to healthcare so equality can exist.
Solomon W. Kinloch Jr.
Pastor Triumph Church
MAN ON A MISSION
By Ju'an Henderson
At the tender age of 12, Solomon W. Kinloch Jr. knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, his calling was real. He felt it deep down inside. "It was like I was already there, on the pulpit, preaching to a church with thousands of people," Kinloch says of his experience that confirmed his calling; "except I wasn't, I was actually walking home from school; and by the time I got to my house, I felt inside like I had preached an entire sermon, I knew I had been called to the ministry." Accepting his calling two years later, at the age of 14; when most young men his age were focused on making the high school football team, Kinloch was preparing to deliver his first sermon. Realizing his oratorical ability at a very early age and possessing the desire to help and encourage others, Kinloch had already begun grooming for his life's purpose and now he was ready.
On Sunday, March 22, 1998, ten years after Kinloch preached his first sermon, he became the pastor of the 100-member Triumph Church. Even though he was only 24 years old, Kinloch embraced his appointment to leadership and says he felt blessed to have a congregation who was ready and receptive to the ministry in a new and relevant way. "I was called to lead a group of people who were ready to do something grand and great for God," says Kinloch.
Since Kinloch has become pastor of Triumph Church, membership has grown from 100 to more than 15,000 and has gone from one service at one location, to 10 services in five different locations. Kinloch explains the purpose of having multiple solomon w. kinloch jr. Pastor Triumph Church locations is to maintain the intimacy of the church service and it also allows people to worship and serve where they live. Under Kinloch's pastoral leadership he says Triumph has transitioned from a traditional ministry to a ministry that is more receptive to change. Kinloch states, "You can't get a better Jesus, but you can get a better presentation of how you present Him to the community." Kinloch strives to preach and teach in a way that encourages people to take a deeper look at themselves in such a way that they become catalysts to promote change in their community. He is a firm believer that we all should do something that allows us to leave our fingerprints on the wall of life.
When asked who has inspired him, Kinloch emphatically says, "Jesus first!" he continues "and Martin Luther King Jr., he has mentored me with his writings and his life works from the grave. My pastor, Robert Smith; former school teachers Clara Crowell and Mary Lou Sutton; and President Barack Obama." The congregation at Triumph believes in the leadership they have found in Kinloch, but Kinloch declares, "great leadership is nothing without great followship." Passionate about preaching the gospel, Kinloch became a young man on a mission when he made a decision at 14 years old, "I'm not gonna die without taking as many people as I can, to heaven with me." Twenty-five years later, he continues to work fervently to win souls to Christ; proving he is still that man on a mission. Kinloch is married to the love of his life, Robin Kinloch and they share one son, Kadin.
President & Chief Executive Officer The Children's Center of Wayne County
SHARING A HEART OF COMPASSION
By Alicia C. Dunlap
As president and chief executive officer for The Children's Center of Wayne County, Debora Matthews is fulfilling what she describes as her life's purpose; helping others. "My personal mission in life has been to make sure others are successful," says Matthews. "My own success means nothing if I can't help others along the way."
Matthews leverages more than 30 years of management and finance experience to fulfill The Children's Center mission of helping children and families shape their own futures. Born to a teenage mother herself and raised primarily by her grandmother, Matthews learned early just how challenging life can be. Those experiences formed the foundational cornerstone that guides her compassionate leadership today.
"I had a rocky childhood growing up, but I always had people in my life who were strong and rescued me. Because of the love and compassion that was shown to me, I was able to excel. Now I have the chance to be the strong one for others. I am called to give back."
While the road of service has always been the path Matthews has taken, the area of social services was not her first career choice. Good in the area of math, Matthews initially desired to be a teacher, later a CPA. As she grew in her career experiences, she could not shake the burning desire to go into the field of social work. Her experience working with non-profits and charitable organizations intensified her desire and calling to make a difference for others.
Having the opportunity to work in both public and private sectors, Matthews knows there is a strategic plan for success in business and in life. Matthews is determined to share her gifts and expertise for the strength of children, families and ultimately our community. Her efforts do not stem from a place of judgment, but rather a place of compassion to see others succeed.
In addition to empowering organizations and individuals in the areas of leadership and financial stability, Matthews is passionate about helping children in abusive and neglected situations. Carrying a special love for single mothers, she works diligently to advocate, provide support and connect families with resources that will ensure a better quality of life. Debora is recognized nationally for her vision and commitment on issues of cultural competency, diversity and child welfare. Through such methods as hands on mentoring, practical coaching and round table discussions, Matthews is touching the lives of people with compassion.
Committed to service, Matthews serves as a board member for Behavioral Health Professionals, Inc., board chair; Michigan Federation of Children's and Families, treasurer; Association of Accredited Child and Family Agencies and the Autism Alliance of Michigan.
Patrick A. Miles Jr.
U.S. Attorney, Western District of Michigan Grand Rapids, Michigan
MILES OF MILESTONES
By Donald James
For most of his academic life and professional career, Patrick A. Miles Jr. has made historic strides worthy of amazement. His latest historic accomplishment occurred on July 9, 2012 when he became U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan in his hometown of Grand Rapids. Nominated by President Barack Obama, Miles is the first African-American to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, which is comprised of 49 counties in Michigan. He oversees an office of 35 attorneys and 40 other members of a legal and supporting staff.
Miles on his key responsibilities: "As U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, I am the chief federal law enforcement officer," explains Miles. "My office handles all of the federal criminal prosecutions in the district. We also handle civil law cases where the federal government is either a defendant being sued, or is a plaintiff suing. In addition, we handle some criminal cases on the 11 federal recognized Native American tribal territories."
On his nomination: "I was honored and humbled," says Miles. "To serve in my hometown of Grand Rapids, where I am a third generation resident, is a dream come true."
A product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, Miles was just 16 years old when he graduated from Ottawa Hills High School. He wanted to be a minister, and even attended Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing. He ultimately transferred to Aquinas College where he earned a bachelor's degree in business and economics. "I realized that I would be better off doing something more on the legal and business side," Miles reflects. "So I decided to pursue a career in law." Miles' next educational achievement was graduating from Harvard Law School at age 23. At Harvard, he made history by becoming the first African- American to serve as editor-in-chief of the student's newspaper, the Harvard Law Record.
With an impressive academic profile from Harvard, Miles could have written his own ticket to most high- profile law firms across America; yet he returned to Grand Rapids where he joined the law firm of Varnum Riddering Schmidt & Howlett, becoming the firm's first African-American associate in its110 year history. Miles ultimately became a partner. After a 15-year stay with the law firm, Miles joined the Grand Rapids-based Dickinson Wright as a partner. "My decision to return to Grand Rapids probably confounded many people," says Miles, with a laugh. "However, I love this community... and its people are very open and trustworthy. I just felt it was right to come home to Grand Rapids."
While busy with the vast responsibilities attached to the office of U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, Miles continues his passion for helping empower others in church, education, health, and minority business sectors. He currently serves in various leadership capacities with such community, civic and educational organizations as Aquinas College, Spectrum Health Hospitals, Inner-City Christian Federation and Grand Rapids Chamber of Black Commerce.
Reflecting on his 20-plus year law professional career of serving and helping people, Miles attributes his success to a credo instilled in him and his sister by their father (a retired Steelcase worker) and mother (a retired teacher from Grand Rapids Public Schools)..."The talents you have are God's gift to you...how you use them is your gift to God."
Teresa Weatherall Neal
Superintendent, Grand Rapids Public Schools Grand Rapids, Michigan
A GRAND LEADER
By Donald James
When Teresa Weatherall Neal was named superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) in July, 2012, after serving as interim superintendent for more than six months, an air of excitement was exuded amid the stakeholders of Michigan's fourth largest school district. The excitement was in anticipation of a new era in public education, based on Neal's long and impeccable track record of accomplishments within the district for more than three decades. Many felt that her 35-plus years of experience with GRPS would be advantageous to her plans to advance the district, especially since she had held such positions as assistant superintendent of community and student affairs, co-director of community and student services, coordinator of compliance, administrative assistant, and student worker.
While Neal has grand plans for GRPS, she knows, like most public school districts across Michigan, there are challenges. However, she is up to the task of leading a school district that is comprised of approximately 18,400 students and 4,000-plus employees. "One of the greatest challenges is creating quality teaching and learning environments in every classroom across the district," says Neal, "We have the best teachers in the state, and part of my job is to ensure that we find ways to help every student, in every class be placed in a position that will better help them learn and advance."
What's interesting about Neal and her passion and vision for educating the children of GRPS is that she is a native daughter of Grand Rapids, and a product of its public school system. "I have loved this district for many, many years," says Neal. "I'm a graduate of Grand Rapids' Creston High School, and a product of GRPS's elementary and middle schools. So my heart has always been here in Grand Rapids. I've never wanted to leave. I didn't plan for this position; but I was so ready when it happened... It's been a calling."
Growing up in Grand Rapids, Neal knew she wanted to do something to help empower people; yet, education was not on her career radar screen. After graduating from high school, she stayed close to home and earned a bachelor's degree in public administration from Grand Valley State University. She subsequently received a master's degree in educational leadership from Western University before returning to Grand Rapids.
Now, Neal is dedicated and focused on leading the students, teachers, community and other stakeholders of Grand Rapids School District. She knows that creating a better school system and creating better environments for teaching and learning are paramount for the success of all. "One of the things that has been so very rewarding about this job is seeing and meeting the children and parents of Grand Rapids School District when I'm out into the community," says Neal, who has been married for 35 years and is the mother of two adult daughters and two grandchildren. "I love when students and parents see and recognize me and know that I am a product of this city, this school district, and this community....I love that they know I am one of them."
President, Chief Executive Officer & Partner Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., LLC
MANAGING BILLIONS DOLLARS DEALS
By Tamekia N. Ashford
There's something distinctive about Suzanne Shank. Her name is synonymous with Wall Street and the public finance industry.
Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise and the U.S. Banker have all acknowledged her success. She is not in the limelight in the traditional sense, but perhaps the world should take a closer look. Shank is the woman that so many girls still dream of becoming. She is brilliant, beautiful and the leader of a firm that manages deals totaling over $800 billion for state and local governments across the country. It is no surprise that she was invited to the White House to meet with President Barak Obama and key leaders of the business world.
Suzanne Shank is the president, chief executive officer and partner of Siebert Brandford Shank and Co., L.L.C., a national underwriter of municipal bonds with offices in 22 cities. The company has achieved significant rankings including being the topped ranked Minority Women Business-owned Enterprise (M/WBE) since 1998, becoming the first MWBE to rank in the top ten among all firms in 2010 and 2011 and ranking in the top three for Michigan transactions. She has led and been actively involved in a variety of large scale transactions including transportation and redevelopment projects, water and sewer projects, convention centers, sports facilities, jails and schools. "I never expected to be an entrepreneur," said Suzanne Shank. "I was actually an engineer during my first career. This was nothing I planned--it was serendipity. When we started the firm in 1996, the hardest thing to do was to convince people to hire a start-up firm. The financial crisis allowed us to recruit from large Wall Street firms and we were able to attract a talented team. I have faith in my partners and employees."
Shank grew up in a small town and had no choice but to work very hard. She is a graduate of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania with a Masters of Business Administration degree in finance and the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. "My mom and dad worked hard," smiles Shank. I guess I was destined to work hard too. I've always been motivated and had a strong drive." Shank credits much of her instinctive financial savvy to her mother; "She was a prudent spender and big time saver."
"I try not to worry about what's next," said Shank. "When I turned 40, I began to understand the real priorities in my life-- healthy kids, great parents, friends and happiness." And how does she balance it all? Kickboxing, a personal trainer and organic foods minus the red meats seem to be the answer to staying fit and reducing stress; She admits to working out more since watching the Olympics.
Shank's commitment to Detroit is evident in her numerous civic and charitable affiliations. She founded the Detroit Summer Finance Institute- - a summer internship program and serves on the boards of the Detroit Institute of Arts and Regional Chamber.
Whether Shank is catching a 7am flight to New York, D.C., Atlanta or Connecticut, or managing billion-dollar deals, her most important deal and piece of work to be done is to arrive back home to check on her kids before they go to bed. "I want to know how their day was, how was practice, what did they eat?" Shank said. They're the deal of a lifetime!"
Charles Thomas Jr.
Chief Executive Officer RESULTS Mentoring
WITH A SECOND CHANCE
By Tamekia N. Ashford
Power, prayer and persistence pays off – that is the testimony of Charles Thomas Jr.'s life. Having grown up on the east side of Detroit under challenging circumstances, Thomas Jr. believed he was the worst thing that happened to schools; A teacher's nightmare and a parent's reason for constant prayer. He was kicked out of multiple high schools and became what many consider to be a failure.
The turning point came in 1990, when his father was stricken with bone cancer. This is where the power of prayer touched him and Thomas realized that in spite of past mistakes, he had the aptitude, the passion and the desire to excel. He progressed to earn associates and bachelor's degrees in business from Davenport University. With God at the head of his life, an education, and a beautiful wife and family, Thomas began to see the enormous need for father figures—particularly for those of African- American descent.
He was afforded the opportunity to coach within the Police Athletic League where he found his place as mentor to troubled youth. "I want to be a blessing," says Thomas. "My goal is to change lives. Many of our young men were excelling on the field, but were taking a turn for the worse in academics and at home. I began to take the coaching off the field and incorporated a strict and much needed disciplined parenting technique with the students who are much like sons." Thomas saw himself in a lot of the boys and decided that he would add structure to their lives by opening the doors of RESULTS Mentoring (Reaching Every Student Using Love Training and Support), a non-profit organization that provides tutoring and mentoring. The after school program provides tutorial services that reinforce the lessons taught by teachers while instilling parental values. The program meets the student at their academic level and incorporates diagnostic testing, daily progress monitoring, highly skilled instructors and quality instructional materials to help students academically. In addition, Results Mentoring helps schools that are dealing with behavioral issues by providing experienced mentors and educators that service the students.
Thomas attributes much of the youth's academic and social distraction to the microwave generational mentality; "they want things fast, without much work." He noted that, "Kids want structure and correction and I'm seeing great change within the lives of my sons and daughters at RESULTS Mentoring."
Thomas is less than a year away from realizing his dream of earning a master's degree in educational leadership. You could hear the smile in his voice as he recounts the many success stories of his students. He noted that graduates of his program are now accountants and educators serving students in our great community. "I got a call from one of my sons (former student that he mentored) and he said, 'Pops, I'm at the airport about to take over the world.'" This particular student graduated from Wilberforce University and was headed to Atlanta for an acting career. Vision 2013 for Thomas and the RESULTS Mentoring Team includes a charter school to help create a standard of educational excellence in Detroit.
He is married to E'Lois and they have two sons, Charles and Isaiah. He is an example that with discipline, persistence and faith, a second chance at life is possible.
Deierdre L. Weir
President & Chief Executive Officer Legal Aid and Defender Association
ALL THE PEOPLE
By Donald James
For close to three decades, Deierdre L. Weir, president and chief executive officer of Legal Aid and Defender Association (LAD), Inc., has successfully headed Michigan's oldest and largest non-profit public interest law firm. Her success is based on the premise that all people - regardless of their socioeconomic status - should have access to legal advice, counsel and representation in civil and criminal matters on both state and federal levels.
To effectively operate LAD, Weir oversees an annual budget in the neighborhood of $18.5 million that allows the organization to render legal services to about 12,000 cases annually in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb Counties and the Eastern District of Michigan. In addition, she renders great leadership to approximately 140 employees, the majority of whom are attorneys and other legal personnel.
Interestingly, Weir is not an attorney; yet, she is a national trendsetting executive in the field of law. Weir explains that many similar law firms across the country are beginning to look at non-lawyers as chief executive officers to oversee respective firms. "One reason is because there needs to be a skill-set that lawyers don't typically bring in terms of efficiently and effectively managing a law firm as a business," says Weir. "So more than 25 years ago, my board decided that it wanted me to run the business aspect of LAD."
While Weir's job is extremely demanding, she wouldn't have it any other way. "I love the work that I do and the people I do it for...as well as the people I work with," says Weir. "I always wanted to work in a non-profit or educational environment where I knew I could make a real difference." Prior to serving as LAD's top officer, Weir was a special education teacher in the state of California, as well as owned a private practice in speech- language pathology. To prepare for what has been a fulfilling career, she earned a bachelor's degree in speech-language pathology from the University of Michigan, and holds two master's degrees: speech and language pathology (the University of California Santa Barbara) and human resources administration (Central Michigan University).
Weir has a great love for education and teaching, but saw a greater need to help people who could not afford legal representation. Ultimately, LAD won out over teaching. "When you think about how important the legal system is and how important it is for people who can't afford legal assistance to have access justice, it poses a great challenge," says Weir, the mother of one adult son. "So my experience at Legal Aid and Defender Association has been a constant reminder that lives can be changed for the better or worst based on what happens when a person is in the legal system."
While Weir is constantly busy with executive responsibilities pertaining to LAD, she makes time to give back to the community and her church. She is most committed to Black United Fund (FUF), where she serves as a board member. In addition, she is a trustee and serves on numerous committees at Plymouth United Church of Christ. One of her greatest passions is mentoring and empowering women. In 2011 Weir authored the riveting fictional novel, "Women are Like Teabags." She is working on a follow-up to the novel due out in the summer of 2013.
President & Chief Executive Officer Orchards Children's Services, Southfield, Michigan
A CHAMPION FOR THE CHILDREN
By Donald James
For almost 10 years, Michael Williams has served as president and chief executive officer of Orchards Children's Services, where his primary focus has been to improve and support the overall conditions of children. His work throughout the region is well documented as an advocate, visionary, leader, and ambassador for empowering children and families. "My focus is on the children, and it goes beyond the rhetoric that the children are our future...they are our present," Williams says emphatically. "I want to make sure that we take the responsibility of shaping our children and providing them with everything they will need to succeed."
Over his tenure at OCS, Williams has given leadership to a multiplicity of programs and initiatives that have served more than 5,000 children and families annually in seven Michigan counties. However, with various partnerships and ancillary programs such as baseball, Williams estimates that approximately 8,500 children and families are served each year.
One of OCS's programs that Williams is extremely proud of is Learn 2 Learn, an education partnership initiative that helps children to enhance study skills and learn the value of going to school. "It's important to give our children a good educational foundation because that's something that no one can take away from them," explains Williams. "We work basically with middle school students, teachers, and administrators throughout the community."
Prior to joining OCS, Williams served as president of StarrVista, Inc., a care management organization for youth and their families. He earlier worked as a community developer at Starr Commonwealth, and was an executive director of the Hannah Neil Center. In addition, he once served two terms as the mayor of Albion, Michigan.
A Flint, Michigan native, Williams grew up in an era when people in the community actively mentored and helped raised neighborhood children, even if the children were not theirs. He learned values and discipline from home and the community, but picked up valuable life skills as a star athlete in baseball, basketball and football. After graduating from Flint Northern High School, Williams attended Albion College where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science and history. He subsequently received a master's degree in administration and public policy from Eastern Michigan University. While Williams once had thoughts of becoming an attorney, he saw a greater need and role in helping children succeed in life. Thus, he embarked on a career that has made him a champion for the children.
For Williams, the beat goes on... and so does his passion for empowering children. In addition to his current leadership role with OCS, Williams is actively involved with community and civic organizations that positively impact young people. He is the president of the Association of Accredited Child and Family Agencies (AACFA), and an active member of the National Black Child
Development Institute. Over the years, he has been interviewed by print and electronic media outlets on topics related to child welfare and juvenile delinquency. "I try to be where I need to be to help the children," says the married father of one daughter. "I speak to a lot of youth groups, and serve as a father to the children; that's my job...that's all of our jobs."
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 July 2013 11:04
Category: Who's Who In Black Detroit Written by Michigan Chronicle
Deborah L. Young, vice president of human resources for R.L. Polk & Company’s North American operation, fully understands that a company’s most valuable asset is its employees, and that a company’s success begins and ends with its people. With more than 25 years experience in the field of human resources, six of which with Polk, a global leader in automotive intelligence and solutions, Young has led the charge in developing, implementing, and overseeing effective HR strategies, systems and processes that best serve the organization and its employees in meeting mutual goals. Young’s HR acumen was formulated through extensive professional experiences in such industries as manufacturing, food service distribution, information publishing, healthcare information, and high-technology manufacturing.
Since 2006, Young has provided leadership and direction to Polk’s HR department in such areas as employment, training and development, compensation, benefits, and organizational culture. In her executive capacity, she impacts more than 500 company employees in the U.S. and Canada.
While Young’s professional fingerprints are all over the efficiency and effectiveness that define the company’s HR department, she is quick to give credit to her team. “The professionals that I work with are just that…competent professionals,” says Young. “They share my philosophy and values regarding the role HR plays in helping Polk succeed.” Young also acknowledges strong support from Polk’s senior leadership team as well as many other colleagues within the company.
With Young at the helm, Polk has been recognized for its innovative and creative HR practices. Such recognitions have included the Arbor Awards for HR Excellence, Crain’s Cool Places to Work, American Heart Association’s Start! Fit-Friendly Company, and Metro Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For.
Before joining Polk, Young, a Chicago native, operated her own HR training and consulting company called Human Capital Solutions. In addition, she has served as the HR director of organizational development and diversity for Spartan Stores in Grand Rapids, Michigan, vice president of human resources for the MEDSTAT Group in Ann Arbor, and vice president of human resources for Xycom Automations in Saline, Michigan. Her professional career began with USG in Chicago where she received her foundation in HR.
“When I started, human resources was called personnel,” says Young, who has a bachelor’s degree in human resources management from DePaul University. “In those days, the personnel department was more focused on policy compliance and keeping employees happy. However, human resources functions have evolved to be more strategic in terms of being a business partner with our organization. Policy compliance is still a part of our role, but where we add real value is in making sure that we are aware of the market challenges that our organizations face, and that we develop HR strategies and approaches to address those specific and unique challenges.”
While technology has become a major component of how many companies function, Young continues to look for ways to keep the “human touch” in human resources at Polk. “We look to find the right blend between high-technology and what I call, ‘high-touch,’” says Young, who is married and has two children. “In other words, we look to leverage technology applications and solutions within HR, while simultaneously connecting with our employees and employment candidates on an authentic and genuine level.”
Last Updated on Monday, 20 May 2013 22:21
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!