Blog: Denise Ilitch

Denise Ilitch has been an integral part of Detroit's business and philanthropic communities for 30 years as a dedicated business leader, a devoted community servant, a supporter of many charitable causes, and a tireless advocate for women and children.

Ilitch is "Of Counsel" at Clark Hill, PLC, where she advises clients in the areas of business practice, corporate law, and government policy. As owner of Denise Ilitch Designs and owner and publisher of Ambassador Magazine, Ilitch promotes entrepreneurship and the successes of Michigan citizens.

She previously served as president of Ilitch Holdings, Inc., a privately held business that manages such entities as Little Caesar Enterprises, the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, and Olympia Entertainment. She served as co-chair for the 2009 Detroit crisis turnaround team and was also part of the team that joined prominent business leaders and government entities to create a vibrant entertainment and sports district, including a $600 million side-by-side stadium project, Comerica Park and Ford Field, for the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions near the Fox Theatre.

A strong supporter of continuing education, Ilitch completed a mediation training course offered by the Michigan State Court Administrative Office through its Resolution Center in 2003. As a mediator, Ilitch works to enhance the traditional justice system by providing and promoting the use of Appropriate Dispute Resolution. She established the Denise Ilitch Scholarship at Walsh College in an effort to help young women earn their advanced degrees.

Ilitch earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and her law degree from the University of Detroit School of Law.  In the fall of 2005, Ilitch joined the University of Detroit Mercy's School of Law as its first Distinguished Visiting Business Executive. She mentors students interested in using legal training to go into business and serves as an advisor for students in the University's joint juris doctor/MBA program and also gives guest lectures. The University of Detroit Mercy Law School named her 2007 Alumnus of the Year.

Ilitch has served on the boards of several civic, business, professional, charitable, and civil rights organizations. She currently serves as vice chair on the University of Michigan Board of Regents, as a trustee for the Skillman Foundation, and as chair for the American Red Cross Southeastern Michigan Chapter.

She is a past member of the board of directors of the Detroit branch of the NAACP. She served as a Detroit Red Wings Alternate Governor for the National Hockey League, and as a board member of Major League Baseball. She is an ACLU advisory committee member. Among her numerous awards and commendations are the B'nai B'rith International Great American Traditions Award and the Clara Barton Award from the American Red Cross.

Ilitch is married to Jim Scalici and they have three children.

Awards and Affiliations

  • Michigan Women's Foundation, 2011 Trillium Lifetime Achievement Honoree
  • International Great American Traditions Award, B'nai B'rith International, 2007
  • Clara Barton Award, American Red Cross, 2007
  • Alumnus of the Year, University of Detroit School of Law, 2007
  • Honorary degree, Central Michigan University 
  • Named one of Michigan's Top Business Women by Corp! Magazine, 2004
  • Honored by Karmanos Cancer Institute for leadership and commitment to the city of Detroit, 2004
  • Distinguished Service Award, Professional Category by the Michigan business and Professional Association, 2004 
  • Named one of Michigan's 95 Most Powerful Women by Corp! Magazine, 2002
  • Named one of the 100 Most Influential Women by Crain's Detroit Business, 2002 & 2003
  • Inducted into Detroit's International Heritage Hall of Fame, 1999 
  • Named one of Northwood University's Distinguished Women, 1999
  • Named Marketing Innovator of the Year by the Sales and Marketing Executives of Detroit, 1998
  • Honored as one of four Women of Achievement by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), 1998 
  • Named as one of the Michigan commercial real estate community's Five for the Future winners by Commercial, Inc., 1997
  • Named Woman of the Year by both Women Mean Business in Dallas and Boys Town of Italy, 1997 
  • Named as one of Detroit's Newsmakers of the Year by Crain's Detroit Business magazine, 1996
  • Recognized by Advertising Age magazine as one of the county's Best and Brightest Marketers, 1992
  • American Red Cross Southeastern Chapter, Chair
  • Skillman Foundation, Trustee
  • University of Michigan Board of Regents, Vice Chair
  • The Lovelight Foundation, Co-Founder
  • Ilitch Charities for Children (ICC), Founder 
  • The Atanas Ilitch Osteosarcoma Foundation, Founder
  • The Denise Ilitch Scholarship at Walsh College, Founder
  • Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Board of Directors
  • Starfish Family Services, Former Member, Board of Directors 
  • Kids Kicking Cancer, Former President, Board of Directors
  • Fox Tots Childcare Center, Founder
  • University of Michigan Alumni Association, Member
  • Detroit Branch NAACP, Past Member, Board of Directors 
  • Detroit Renaissance, Past Member, Board of Directors
  • Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, Past Member, Board of Directors
  • Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Past Member, Board of Directors 
  • Detroit Red Wings, Former Alternate Governor, National Hockey League
  • Major League Baseball, Former Board Member
  • March of Dimes Walk America, Past Honorary Chair
  • NStar Community Bank, Former Member, Board of Directors 
  • Clockwork Services, Former Member, Board of Directors
  • Detroit Conservancy, Former Member, Board of Directors

Denise Ilitch - Most Recent Posts:

Post 2: Capping Off Graduation of my favorite parts of being a Regent at the University of Michigan is commencement!  It is such a joyous time for all! It represents happy endings and new beginnings and there is such hope and anticipation.  I always cry and then joke, "And my kids haven't even graduated yet!"

This year's commencement was great, as we honored such accomplished people: Spike Lee received a Doctor of Fine Arts; Eugene Robinson, a Doctor of Humane Letters; and Bill Ford, Jr., Stephen Ross, Governor Snyder, and Vernon J. Ehlers all received a Doctor of Laws.

I had the distinct privilege of presenting the honorary degree to Bill Ford, Jr. It was quite exciting as I have a very high regard for Bill and his contribution to our world.

The University hosted a dinner the evening prior to commencement with the honorees at the UM Art Museum. I was especially excited to meet Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author.  I watch him on MSNBC all the time and find him insightful and reasonable. 
I did not realize he was a UM graduate and from Michigan.  I also enjoyed speaking to Spike Lee, who is a big baseball fan and declares his favorite team is the Yankees

Governor Snyder, who earned three degrees at U-M, gave the commencement address and emphasized the importance of doing the right thing and making Michigan a better place. All of the speakers emphasized the importance of acting boldly and taking risks and being willing to stand up for one's ideas and beliefs.  As our President said, "This is no time for wavering… but for people unafraid to challenge the status quo. People are eager to take risks because big risks can deliver big rewards."

I love that.  Students cheered all day, caps flew in the air and parents were smiling all day.  The commencement ended with a rousing rendition of the Michigan fight song.

My favorite send off, however, was from President Coleman as she declared, "For today, goodbye. For tomorrow, good luck. And forever, GO BLUE!!!!"

Photos courtesy of Denise Ilitch

Post 1: NHL Stands For "No Humor Left"

Playoff  hockey!!  We are on to San Jose to play the Sharks in the second round.  It is our 20th consecutive appearance in the playoffs…a long way from the Dead Wings.  Who remembers?  I certainly do.  It seems like yesterday, although I much prefer the new and improved team.

I am struck by the changes in hockey over the years (Shootouts, to name one) but some of the rules have impacted the beauty of tradition.

Where oh where has the octopus gone?  The tradition of the octopus is a sports tradition during home playoff games since 1952!  The NHL used to play a two best of seven series to capture the Stanley Cup.  The octopus having eight arms symbolized the number of playoff wins necessary to win the Stanley Cup.  It has been widely reported that it was the Cusimano brothers who first hurled an octopus at Olympia Stadium.

Fast forward: fans have been honoring the tradition ever since and our 'mascot' has evolved into Al, the purple octopus.

Hockey fans all over the country have picked up the octopus tradition in some way or form.  For example, in 1995 a Boston fan threw a lobster on the ice.  In 1996, fans threw toy rats on the ice and in 2002, Nashville Predator fans threw catfish!  In 2007, a Sharks fan even threw a 4-foot leopard shark on the ice.  A Coyotes fan threw a rubber snake, and of course my personal favorite is in the second game of the 2009-10 series between the Wings and the Sharks, when a small shark was tossed to the ice with an octopus inside its mouth.

While I understand it could get carried away, it's a sad day to me that a person gets thrown in jail for honoring a long Detroit tradition.

I say the NHL should stand for No Humor Left.

I was in Phoenix for the Wings sweep of the Coyotes and no broom was in sight.  What's next?  No more hats for a hat trick?

I get being practical, but geez, where has all the fun gone?

Image courtesy of Denise Ilitch