Visionary Leadership Award: Mariam Noland, President- Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

Mariam Noland grew up in a small town in Ohio, where she came from a large, charitable family, and “learned at a young age that you were expected to help others.”

She did not, however, expect to do it at a foundation. “I didn’t even know what a foundation was,” she says.

Noland says she always wanted to live in a big city, so she went to Cleveland. It was, she says “my first taste of what life was like. ”It was also, she says, where she learned that “there was actually an organized way to do good.”

Her first experience was working for the 100 year old Cleveland Foundation, primarily on education funding. She then worked at the St. Paul Foundation.

When Mariam Noland was approached by Joe Hudson about taking the helm of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, she agreed to three years. That was 29 years ago.

“I’m a Detroiter now,” says Noland. “I care deeply about Detroit and this region. This is a great place to be if you want to make a difference.”

Noland defines a community foundation as “a place where people of all means can invest in the community.”

For her the satisfaction comes in helping donors find something to support that is really meaningful. “I’m just the middle person. We’re the connector.”

In its relatively short 30 year history, the Southeast Michigan Community Foundation has grown to become the 23rd largest foundation in the country, and has given away $650 million dollars.The community endowment has over $775 million dollars which generates funding for projects in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair and Livingston counties.

“This is one of the most generous places,” says Noland. “There’s also a lot of wealth and a lot of wealthy people.” And, she says “there’s real need.”

With the economy in an upswing, Noland says “I think this is one of the most optimistic times for this city. Things are looking pretty good right now.”

Noland says she was interested in the IFLC’s work because of our efforts to build bridges and understanding.

“It’s all about doing good.”

At the IFLC Awards Dinner on October 29, we will present Mariam Noland with the Visionary Leadership Award for her work as President of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan and in the community, where she is also a member of the board of trustees of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Independent Sector, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and a vice chair of the board of the Henry Ford Health System.