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Role Model Dinner

2020 Role Model Dinner

Thursday, March 26, 2020

5:30-8:30 pm

5:30 pm: Reception and Silent Auction

6:45 pm: Dinner, Live Auction, and Role Model Awards

Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center – Ambassador Ballroom

Tickets on sale now! Click here to purchase your ticket today.

Honoring the 2020 Role Models:

Denise Ilitch
President, Ilitch Enterprises

Denise Ilitch has been an integral part of Detroit’s business and philanthropic communities for over 40 years as a dedicated business leader, a devoted community servant, a supporter of many charitable causes, and a tireless advocate for women and children.

Denise Ilitch is an owner of Ilitch Family Companies.  She is also president of Ilitch Enterprises, LLC.  She previously served as president of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. from 2000 to 2004, a privately held business that manages Little Caesar Enterprises, the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, Olympia Entertainment and Olympia Development. Through her extensive involvement and various leadership roles within the diverse portfolio of Ilitch Holdings companies, she has developed a very broad range of business skills, including expertise in executing large scale real estate developments.  She was 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. Denise is a seasoned asset manager, having overseen the ongoing operations of an extensive portfolio of commercial properties including entertainment venues, gaming and hospitality, food service, and retail enterprises. Her leadership experience in other industries includes restaurant franchise, food manufacturing, non-profit fundraising, and transportation companies.  She has earned the titles “Marketing Innovator of the Year” and “Best & Brightest Marketer” and has been celebrated by Corp! Magazine and Crain’s Detroit Business Magazine in their “Top Business Women” and “Most Influential Women” features.

Ms. Ilitch currently serves as Regent on the University of Michigan Board of Regents and is Vice Chair of the Board.  She also serves as trustee for the Skillman Foundation and as Chair of the Skillman External Relations & Partnerships Committee, and on the FUEL Leadership Board. 

For the past fifteen years Ms. Ilitch has been a regular panelist on the weekly “Michigan Matters” CBS 62 television program which focuses on relevant issues concerning the metro Detroit area and the nation.  Ilitch was a former publisher of Ambassador Magazine authoring many articles, most recently, “Building Your Confidence as a Woman” and “Investing In You”, which was published in SEEN Magazine.

A strong supporter of continuing education, she established the Denise D. Ilitch Endowed Scholarship through the U of M Alumni Association LEAD Scholars Program and also the Denise Ilitch Scholarship at Walsh College in an effort to help young women earn their advanced degrees. The University of Detroit Mercy Law School named her 2007 Alumnus of the Year.  Ilitch earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and her Law Degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

Ilitch has served on the Boards of several civic, business, professional, charitable and civil rights organizations, including serving as co-chair for the 2009 Detroit crisis turnaround team and the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.  She is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Branch NAACP. She served as a Detroit Red Wings Alternate Governor for the National Hockey League, a Board Member of Major League Baseball and as 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.

Palencia Mobley
Deputy Director and Chief Engineer, Detroit Water and Sewage Department

Palencia Mobley, P.E. was appointed as the Deputy Director and Chief Engineer of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department by Mayor Mike Duggan and approved by the Board of Water Commissioners in January 2016. In her role, she oversees all department operations including engineering, capital construction, field services maintenance and repair, meter operations, fleet and facilities.  In addition, Ms. Mobley is also responsible for implementation of the department’s green infrastructure program and the City of Detroit’s first post construction stormwater ordinance. Prior to her appointment as Deputy Director, Mobley led the operations negotiations on behalf of the City for establishment of the new Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). The GLWA is a regional water authority which pays the DWSD $50 million per year for the next 40 years to lease and operate the water and wastewater treatment facilities which serve Southeastern Michigan. This lease payment will be the primary funding source for future infrastructure investments, allowing the department to go from a $25 million to $75 million annual capital improvement investment. Under her leadership, the department has increased its renewal of water and sewer infrastructure from 10 miles per year to 50 miles in 2018. Mobley is focused on improving customer service, developing a long-term capital improvement plan, and enhancing the development and training of DWSD staff. Mobley, an authority on water infrastructure and environmental engineering, has nearly twenty years of experience in planning, design and construction administration and management services for water and wastewater utilities across the country. She co-authored a proposal to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that resulted in an $8.9 million discretionary allocation for planning and resiliency for the City of Detroit. Mobley is passionate about green infrastructure for stormwater management and use of Detroit’s greatest asset, publicly owned land, to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Mobley is a graduate of the University of Michigan with Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Wayne State University with a Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering. In 2006, she became one of the youngest minority women to ever attain licensure as a Professional Engineer in the State of Michigan. In July of 2018, Mobley was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to the Michigan Infrastructure Council, a state led board responsible for implementing an asset management strategy for infrastructure for the next 30 years. Mobley has been recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business as a notable woman in STEM (May 2019) and is a Crain’s Detroit Business 40 Under 40 Award recipient (September 2019). She also serves as the Vice Chair of the Sinai Grace Guild Community Development Corporation.

Laura Chavez Wazeerud-Din
Branch Manager, Flagstar Bank

Laura Chavez is Branch Manager for Flagstar Bank in Downtown Detroit.  Laura realized at an early age there was a lack of bilingual teachers in the Detroit educational system.  She started school while in the foster care system in the State of Michigan.  When she entered the foster care system she only spoke Spanish.  Unfortunately, none of her foster parents spoke Spanish.   After kindergarten she was placed in Special Education until third grade.  It wasn’t until third grade that she learned to read and effectively write at her grade level.  Fourth grade she was placed in the “Gifted and Talented class” and untimely graduated in the top five in her senior year at Western International High School.   Upon graduating she had a goal of increasing the rate of bilingual graduates, She continued her academic career at the Wayne State University College of education with a Bilingual Bicultural Specialization. 

Chavez has dedicated over 15 years of her life to strengthening the communities in the City of Detroit and is ready to work 15 more. From working with Southwest Solutions, the Mexicantown Community Development Corporation, to Henry Ford Health System; she have always focused on spreading resources about health, financial literacy, and education. By providing free workshops and volunteering her time, she brings topics like Homebuyer Education Workshops, neighborhood pride and beautification, and lifelong fundamentals to communities in need.

Since joining Flagstar, Laura have been given the freedom to engage in community development as part of her role as Branch Manager.  I have had the opportunity to bring awareness to issues in the Hispanic community and creating platforms for change. Flagstar Bank has allowed Laura to use her voice and advocate for resources in communities that are disenfranchised.  Most recently, she assisted in passing out backpack kits to over 500 Detroit families in the Old Redford neighborhood.  She has also worked diligently to establish the Hispanic Employee Relations Group (HERG). She is proud to announce the HERG was successfully launched February 15, 2019. Currently, Laura is active on the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce participating in monthly events on behalf of the company as well as on the board of the Detroit Chapter of Prospanica, a national Hispanic Professional Organization.  She is also a board member of WAY Academy and had the honor of being the keynote speaker for the 2019 Graduating class.

Sponsorship Opportunities

Event sponsorships offer many benefits. For more details, please see this sponsorship opportunities packet. You may also reach out directly to Dawn Barrack, Director of Fund Development, at (313) 361-4000 ext. 230 or

We salute our 2020 sponsors:

(as of February 5, 2020)


DTE Energy Foundation

Carole Ilitch

PVS Chemicals


Ajax Paving


Beaumont Health

Greektown Casino Hotel

Piston Group

Dakkota Integrated Systems


Argent Tape and Label, Inc.

Hodges Subaru

JCD Advisors

Metro West Chapter of Credit Unions

MGM Grand

Monica Martinez

Special D Events

Trinity Health

Willis Towers Watson

Media Partner

Hour Detroit Magazine

Floral Sponsor

B.J’s Wholesale Club

Henry Ford Health System

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