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Leadership Detroit Turns 40

Dome Magazine

By: Tom Watkins

Times Flies. I was in Leadership Detroit ll or class 2 , 38 years ago? Come on!

I am a proud recipient of the “lifetime achievement award” from Leadership Detroit in 2011 and am grateful for the contacts and friendships I made early in my career across city-suburban, race, ethnicity, professional backgrounds in the nonprofit, government and private sectors. Many remain friends to this day. In fact one of the strengths of this Chamber leadership program is the enduring personal and professional relationships that continue far beyond graduation. It is like joining a sorority or fraternity – without the hazing!

Leadership Detroit was launched in 1979 under the leadership of Frank Smith, the Detroit Regional Chamber CEO, and today is a vibrant community leadership program for executives in Southeast Michigan, with nearly 2,000 alumni. The program aims to create awareness of key issues that affect the Detroit region and to challenge emerging and existing community leaders to bring about positive change in the community through informed leadership.

It’s able Chamber staff leader, Dan Piepszowski, Senior Director, Community Leadership Development Detroit Regional Chamber (LD XVII) is as passionate about the leadership development program as he is to the enrichment and advancement of the entire SE Michigan region. He is the ultimate cheerleader for the program and engaging the rich tapestry of people and talent that make up our city and region.

Like the leaders that came before him, Dan is energetic, dynamic, and committed to adding value and making a lasting and positive difference.

Dan captures the essence of Leadership Detroit explaining, “The Leadership Detroit experience takes executives out of their comfort zones to challenge long-held assumptions and to embrace multiple and diverse perspectives on quality of life issues in the Detroit region and Michigan. These leaders have proven that change is possible when passion, commitment, and courage coalesce to change our understanding and expectations of what is possible.”

Leadership Matters!

Some, and by no means not all of the distinguished alumni include:

  • N. Charles Anderson, President and CEO, Urban League of Detroit and Southeastern Michigan, Inc.
  • Dennis Archer, Founding Principal and President, Archer Corporate Services, LLC
  • Charles Beckham, recently retired Group Executive for the Department of Neighborhoods, City of Detroit
  • Gerald Brisson, President, Gleaners Community Food Bank
  • Dean Brody, Managing Director, Health and Life Sciences Consulting Accenture
  • Robert Bury, (Former) Executive Director and CEO, Detroit Historical Society
  • Mark Davidoff, Managing Partner, Michigan Deloitte LLP
  • Dorothy Deremo, Principal Partner and CEO, The Deremo Group
  • David Egner, President and CEO, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation
  • Eva Garza Dewaelsche, President and CEO, SER Metro-Detroit, Jobs For Progress Inc.
  • Jennifer Granholm, former Governor, State of Michigan
  • Ronald Hall, President and CEO, Bridgewater Interiors, LLC
  • Hassan Jaber, Executive Director, Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services (ACCESS)
  • Ron Kagan, Executive Director and CEO, Detroit Zoological Society/Detroit Zoo
  • Brenda Lawrence, Representative, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Ryan Maibach, President., Barton Malow Company
  • Barbara McQuade, Former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
  • Mariam Noland, President, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
  • Sandra Pierce. Private Bank and Regional Banking Director, Senior Executive Vice President, Chair of Michigan Huntington Bank
  • Rochelle Riley, Columnist, Detroit Free Press
  • Robert Riney, President, Healthcare Operations and Chief Operating Officer, Henry Ford Health System
  • Christopher Rizik, CEO and Fund Manager, Renaissance Venture Capital Fund
  • Rick Sperling, President and Artistic Director, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit
  • Daniel Varner, President and CEO, Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit

The reviews are high from people who have participated in Leadership Detroit:

“‘Before you lead, learn.’ That is an adage that I’ve come to respect. Leadership Detroit has been a process of learning. We have become more aware of local and state issues and resources that will make us more effective, connected and prepared leaders.” -LaNesha DeBardelaben, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; Leadership Detroit Class XXXVIII

“This opportunity was able to pack a lifetime of experiences into just a few short programs. This experience has allowed me to look past my own biases and challenge what assumptions I have made throughout my life.” -Kevin Zeleji, Barton Marlow Company; Leadership Detroit Class XXXIX

There is also a sense of excitement from the new class LD 40 as they begin their journey.

Carol Zuniga, Executive Director Hegira Health, Inc. exclaimed, “The anticipation of the 2-day Leadership Detroit Class XL orientation at Camp Tamarack this past week was palpable. Dan Piepszowski, his team from the Detroit Regional Chamber and the contributions from several exceptional LD XXXIX class members, reinforced the pride, excitement and appreciation for the journey.

She continues, “The 2-day orientation was a matchless and amazing experience to share with a group of 70 strangers. After two days of introspection and engagement with this diverse, remarkably talented, confident and driven group of professional men and women, what united this group of mostly strangers became exceptionally clear; the self-derived expectation that each one of us is here to make a difference and that embarking on this journey called LD XL, will provide the platform from which we will each find our way to impact the region, our communities and the people for whom we care so deeply.”

Value Added

“For 40 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber has led one of the nation’s oldest and most respected leadership development programs,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “Leadership Detroit has had a hand in shaping the Detroit region’s top talent and providing them a network of more than 2,000 alumni to connect with. We are proud of the program and the change that has spurred from this network of individuals.”

In recognition of the 40th anniversary , the Chamber is hosting a Fall Legacy Celebration on Oct. 25th at Cliff Bell’s that will focus on supporting the LD scholarship fund to help encourage a diverse class of participants. Please consider attending or contributing — because we all know, leadership comes in all shapes, color, ethnicity and sizes and it truly matters!

Want to learn more about leadership Detroit and how to nominate someone to join the mountain of people that call themselves alum go to their website:

Leadership Matters. The Detroit Regional Chamber has helped set the table for leadership development in ways that continue to add value and make a difference. Thank you Detroit Regional Chamber.