Alumnae Council: Athena Award


Athena Award Recipient Denise Ilitch

The University of Michigan Alumnae Council (UMAC) is pleased to honor University of Michigan Regent Denise Ilitch with the 2023 University of Michigan Alumnae Council Athena Award.

Started in 1973, the award is bestowed on outstanding alumnae who have distinguished themselves in professional and humanitarian endeavors. It’s a natural extension of the Alumnae Council’s mission of “women helping women pursue higher education at the University of Michigan since 1917.” These outstanding alumnae are examples of accomplished women in fields that may be considered difficult or inaccessible for young female students; they’re asked to return to campus to engage with students and the wider university community.

Detroit-area Businessperson, Lawyer, and Leader

Denise Ilitch earned her bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan in 1977. She received her Juris Doctorate from University of Detroit in 1980.  A strong supporter of the University of Michigan, she was first elected statewide to the University of Michigan Board of Regents in November 2008 and she still holds this position today. Regent Ilitch serves on boards of many businesses and community organizations in the metro Detroit area. She founded Ilitch Charities for Children and established the Denise D. Ilitch Endowed Scholarship through the U-M Alumni Association LEAD Scholars Program to help students earn their advanced degrees.

Past Athena Award recipients – representing such fields as the sciences, government, education, and law include former Surgeon General of the United States Antonia Novello; former editor of the Chicago Tribune Ann Marie Lipinski; ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber; researcher and architect, Lorissa MacAllister, pediatrician and whistleblower, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha; Coach Carol “Hutch” Hutchins; and community organizer, Emily Sioma.

The Alumnae Council is pleased to add Regent Denise Ilitch to the list of University of Michigan women whom it recognizes as making a difference in professional and humanitarian endeavors.

Past Athena Award Recipients

  • 1973 Dr. Joan Goebel — Medicine
  • 1974 Rafaelito Soriana — Government
  • 1975 Clara Stanton Jones — Library Science
  • 1976 Dr. Matina S. Honer — Education
  • 1977 Dr. Mary Frances Berry — Education, Government Service
  • 1978 Robin Wright — News Reporting
  • 1979 Dr. Wu Yi-Fang — Education
  • 1980 Dr. Marjorie Horning —Chemistry
  • 1981 Barbara Nissman — Performing Arts
  • 1982 Nancy Hays Teeters — Economics, Government Service
  • 1983 Dr. Elise Boulding — Sociology
  • 1984 Dr. Karen Uhlenbeck — Mathematics
  • 1985 Dr. Paula J. Clayton — Psychiatry
  • 1986 Nancy Landon Kassebaum — Politics
  • 1987 Helen Wilson Nies — Law
  • 1988 Jo Eleanor Elliott — Nursing
  • 1989 Dr. Nancy Sabin Wexler — Neuropsychology
  • 1990 Anne Stevenson
  • 1991 Dr. Gwen Baker — Education
  • 1992 Martha Rumayne Seger — Economist, Federal Reserve
  • 1993 Antonia Novello — Surgeon General of the United States
  • 1994 Ilse Lehiste — Linguistics
  • 1995 Dr. Alexa Canaday — Medicine
  • 1996 Ashley Putnam — Metropolitan Opera
  • 1998 Dorothy Sampus — Foreign Service
  • 2009 Ann Marie Lipinski — Journalism
  • 2011 Sandra Steingraber — Ecology
  • 2014 Lorissa MacAllister — Architecture
  • 2017 Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha — Medicine, Children’s Health
  • 2018 Coach Carol Hutchins — Sports
  • 2019 Emily Sioma — Advocacy
  • 2021 Cheryl Soper — Finance (first woman comptroller for U-M)
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