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Detroit celebrates ribbon cutting of WSU’s Mike Ilitch School of Business

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published August 22, 2018

 Brittany Grace, from Detroit, an accounting major in her second year, will be among the students attending classes at the Mike Ilitch School of Business.

Brittany Grace, from Detroit, an accounting major in her second year, will be among the students attending classes at the Mike Ilitch School of Business.

Photo by Deb Jacques

VIPs and members of the Detroit community gathered together Aug. 21 to celebrate the ribbon cutting of Wayne State University’s new Mike Ilitch School of Business.

Located in the District Detroit, along Woodward Avenue and directly next to Little Caesar’s Arena, the new facility will allow more classes, more students and the addition of two new programs: Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Sport and Entertainment Management.

The new facility was made possible thanks in large part to a $40 million gift from Marian Ilitch and her late husband, Mike Ilitch.

“Today we open this exceptional school, which is located right on Woodward, right where an institution of such importance belongs,” said Chris Ilitch, Marian and Mike Ilitch’s son and the president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings. “This school will provide a life-changing opportunity for young people.”

Marian Ilitch was seated front and center for the ribbon cutting and was considered by many at the event to be the unofficial guest of honor.

School administrators said the new building and new resources will allow far more opportunities for Detroit college students.

“There are two things that set this place apart: our focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, and our focus on sports and entertainment management,” said M. Roy Wilson, the president of Wayne State University. “Not a lot of schools can focus on those areas as we can because of our cooperation with the Ilitch organization.”

With the completion of the new building there are now more than 1,400 students enrolled in Wayne State’s business school, giving it the second most admissions behind only the university’s school of arts and sciences. This marks a 65 percent increase in enrollment since 2015, when construction on the new building began.

“An infusion of young people downtown will help bring to life the vibrant and bustling Detroit my parents believed in,” said Chris Ilitch. “This project will carry on their gift for years to come.”

The university’s administrators stressed how important it was that the business school be designed from the ground up to be open and accessible to the community. They wanted the school to be a part of the community and the students at the school to have access to the community.

“Being located among the business community is a big thing,” said Robert Forsythe, the dean of the business school. “(Students) can walk out the door and go to their internships. We are the only business school in the country within walking distance of sports and entertainment venues like this.”

Chris Ilitch added that the opening of the new building is a big step in Detroit’s revitalization.

“Detroit, I believe, is at a breakthrough point in its resurgence,” he said. “Our college-educated talent is now choosing to stay here and keep their talents in this city and in this state. … They’re not looking out of state for opportunities; they’re looking out the window.”

Forsythe said he is proud to have the new building completed and ready for classes to begin Aug. 29, but he said the most important thing is that it will be another tool local students can use to better themselves.

“We want to use this building to highlight our students,” said Forsythe. “A lot of them are the first in their family to go to college, so they’re not entitled. They want to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, and this will help them do that.”

Wilson said he hopes the school will be able to live up to the business skill, entrepreneurial attitude and giving spirit its namesake was known for.

“We want to use Mike Ilitch as an inspiration, so my advice to students is to be like Mike,” said Wilson. “I’m sure Mike Ilitch is looking down on this building and is pleased; but if I know him, the thing he’s most pleased with is the students who will be learning from his example.”