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A Thank You to Tonya Allen








Tonya Allen, President and CEO of the influential Skillman Foundation since 2014, will soon depart her beloved Detroit to take on the challenge of leading the McKnight Foundation and helping the Twin Cities heal in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder that ignited the national movement to address systemic racial disparities.

To call Tonya Allen a consequential leader is an understatement. Few leaders are irreplaceable; Tonya is one of those few. Her unwavering commitment to the children of Detroit will leave a lasting impact for generations and her clarion call to always ask “how are the children doing?” must continue to be a guiding ethos.

Tonya’s special brand of leadership and impact comes from her ability to marry true thought leadership with the art of knitting diverse peoples together to create something that is truly “we” not “me.” Her genuine thoughtfulness and graciousness of heart make others want to collaborate with her. Under Tonya’s leadership, our state and region have created impactful initiatives that have made real progress in the long road to improving education, including the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children, Launch Michigan, the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation and others. All this has made Tonya Allen a unique leader among leaders in our region.

While the intersections between Tonya and the Detroit Regional Chamber are too many to enumerate, most visibly, she will be missed at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference. Scoring a main stage role at the Conference is one of the most difficult, prized spots in Michigan; and Tonya has been featured more than most. Even when she is not on stage, her thought leadership is liberally used by other speakers.

Tonya Allen has been a unique and special person for Detroit and Michigan. She will be truly missed – and she is truly loved. The simple fact that I am just one of scores of people from all walks of life that share this exact same thought is a testament to how remarkable Tonya Allen is.

Godspeed, Tonya.

Sandy K. Baruah

President and Chief Executive Officer

Detroit Regional Chamber