Our founder, Rose Skillman, has been gone for more than thirty years, but her unwavering advocacy for children lives on through the Skillman Foundation’s work and leadership in Detroit. For nearly a decade, that strong leadership came from Carol Goss, who steered the Foundation’s place-based work, the Good Neighborhoods Initiative. It continues through Tonya Allen, who became the Foundation’s sixth president on Jan. 1, 2014. Other former presidents of the Foundation include Leonard Smith, William Beckham, Kari Schlachtenhaufen and Rose Skillman herself.
Rose and her husband, Robert Skillman, both born in Ohio, were married in Cincinnati in 1907. One of the early pioneers in the growth of the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, Robert served as the company’s sales representative for the eastern half of the country, developed 3M’s foreign sales in England and Europe, and became the company’s vice president and director. Following several initial years of struggle, the company flourished as continuous advances in technology led to the inventions of waterproof sandpaper, masking tape and Scotch tape.
After a long career at 3M, Robert retired and moved with Rose to Bloomfield Hills and Winter Park, Fla. In Bloomfield Hills, the Skillmans purchased Fairfield Farms, which they transformed into a replica of a white-fenced Kentucky farm, complete with a stable of horses and colts. In 1939, Robert Skillman returned to 3M to negotiate the purchase of the Studebaker plant on Piquette Street in the Milwaukee Junction area of Detroit’s Central Northend Woodward neighborhood. He also coordinated the project that would transform the facility into an adhesive plant. He worked for this company as an executive consultant until his death in 1945.
After Robert’s death, Rose Skillman continued to live in Bloomfield Hills and Florida for nearly 40 more years until her death in 1983. In addition to her love of animals – particularly horses and dogs – and her appreciation of the arts, Rose Skillman’s commitment to the welfare of vulnerable children continued to grow.
Initially, she made charitable contributions to organizations that served children. Subsequently, she worked with her attorney and accountant to incorporate The Skillman Foundation in December 1960. She served as president until she was named honorary chair in 1964. She remained a trustee of the Foundation until her death.
The Skillman Foundation staff and trustees are committed to honoring Rose Skillman’s dreams, and to leverage our grantmaking and broader influence to improve the lives of Detroit children.