2015 Public Policy Pioneers

The Michigan ACE Women’s Network honored four women as part of its 2015 class of Public Policy Pioneers, each of whom has spent her career championing women’s equality issues as well as matters that impact her community.

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow and Kathleen Wilbur were recognized for their achievements as contemporary honorees while The Honorable Mary Stallings Coleman and Margaret “Ranny” Towsley Riecker was saluted posthumously during the MI-ACE Women’s Network Annual Conference June 8-9 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing.

The MI-ACE Women’s Network operates in concert with the Inclusive Excellence Group of the American Council on Education and is the state’s largest professional development organization dedicated to furthering the advancement of women who work in higher education. It recognizes annually women leaders throughout the state who have made significant contributions through their work that benefits women and girls.

Public Policy Pioneers are women who have impacted public policy or taken precedent-breaking action on behalf of women and higher education, and who have championed access, collaborative leadership and the equitable treatment of women. They are women who have affected public policy through their sustained efforts and who have led the way through their example and service for other women to follow. It is a nonpartisan recognition.

The MI-ACE Women’s Network launched its Public Policy Pioneers recognition in 2013, click here for details.

“This year’s honorees again shine light on the amazing work of women who have served tirelessly to support their communities,” said MaryLee Davis, chair, MI-ACE Women’s Network Public Policy Committee.

Davis noted that it is important to showcase the ground-breaking, precedent-setting and brave actions of women who have impacted public policy in ways that positively affect women and higher education.

“Recognition of our history can only further positively influence future generations of women as they champion access, collaborative leadership and the equitable treatment of women in our state of Michigan,” she said.

MI-ACE Women’s Network State Coordinator Lynette Findley commends the work of the group’s public policy committee in recognizing the achievements of such notable women.

“We are thrilled to recognize these women for their extraordinary achievements,” Findley said. “Recognizing their successes sets the stage for future generations of women leaders to excel and continue championing matters that positively affect women and higher education.”

The list of accomplishments of the 2015 class of Public Policy Pioneers is impressive, she adds.

ColemanwebChief Justice Mary Stallings Coleman – The first woman elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1972, she was unanimously elected by her peers to serve as chief justice in 1979. As the first woman to preside over the state of Michigan’s highest court, she was only the fourth woman in the nation to serve as chief justice over a high state court. Known as an innovator, Stallings Coleman spent 12 years prior to her tenure on the Michigan Supreme Court serving as a probate and juvenile court judge, drafting legislation that created the state’s Child Protective Services and Office of Youth Services. She also was a presidential appointee to the National Commission on the Observance of Women’s Year, was an Albion College trustee, and advisor for children’s programs at the Edna McConnll Clark Foundation. A member of the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame inaugural class in 1983, she received the Champion of Justice Award from the Michigan Bar Association in 1993.

Riecker,RannyMargaret “Ranny” Towsley Riecker – Towsley Riecker served as a trustee of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow foundation for more than 51 years, spending 14 years as its president. She was a philanthropist known for her ability to gather diverse stakeholders to tackle challenging community problems, and is remembered as a woman who espoused the viewpoint that it is people who solve problems, not money. She served as a trustee of the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation since 1962, where she also spent time as president. Additionally, she served as a member of the board of trustees at Carleton College and Central Michigan University, and as a member of the board for the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the Center for the Education of Women. She co-founded the Council of Michigan Foundations in 1973, and served as vice-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, later serving as a Republican National Committeewoman. The Chippewa Nature Center’s Margaret Ann (Ranny) Riecker Nature Preschool Center was named in her honor.


Debbie_Stabenow,_official_portraitU.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow – U.S. Senate (2000-Present), U.S. House of Representatives (1996-2000), Michigan Senate (1991-94), and Michigan House of Representatives (1979-90): Stabenow’s political career began when she was elected to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners at 24 years old. She later went on to become the first woman from Michigan elected to the United States Senate, and is only the second person from the state to have served in both houses of the Michigan State Legislature as well as both houses of the United States Congress. She is widely admired for her communication priorities, and has been a continuing voice on behalf of women and higher education. Stabenow has played a unique role in shaping the nation’s manufacturing, health care, and agricultural policies, and her influence in the state legislature is evident throughout Michigan law, from the Michigan property tax cut to legislation to protect children and families. She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2005.


KathleenMWilburwebKathleen Wilbur – The first woman in Michigan to lead three state departments, Wilbur is known for her commitment to public service, higher education and advocacy for Michigan’s vulnerable populations. Her consumer-focused initiatives include work to create the Office of Financial and Insurance Services to provide better cross-training and information sharing among enforcement officers, monitors and risk managers. She also launched the Governor’s Quality Care Program to provide recognition to the people who care for Michigan’s most vulnerable populations. She has more than 30 years of executive leadership experience in government and higher education, and frequently is involved as a panelist and speaker on public policy. She has long fought for higher education financing equity, and has been a key force in employing a team approach among Michigan’s 15 public universities to tackle funding issues. Currently, she is vice president of development and external affairs for Central Michigan University, where she also has served as interim president. She was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007.




Make a Difference: Leadership. Inclusion. Connections.

The Michigan ACE Network annual conference is designed by women in higher education for women in higher education, and for those who share their mission, to provide opportunities for professional development in an environment that values connection, inclusiveness and developing leadership potential. Sessions are tailored with the goal of bringing women together with their peers to engage on topics impacting women in academe today, including issues around public policy and women’s equity. Through this active collaboration, the MI-ACE Network strives to improve the climate, and enhance professional recognition and career advancement for women working in all of Michigan’s public and private colleges and universities.

The Michigan ACE Network Public Policy Priorities for 2014-16

  1. Changing Demographics-Access and Opportunity in Higher Education
  2. Funding for Programs and Issues that Impact Women and Girls
  3. Cost and Funding Issues in Higher Education (involving both private and public resources)
  4. Education About and Involvement in Public Policy Issues
  5. Promotion/Pay Equity/Support Issues

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