Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

Remembering Leonard Smith

Change makers are among us everywhere, the majority of them working behind the scenes. They are lawyers and accountants, administrators and assistants, evaluators and creatives. Many hands are needed to achieve massive change. On January 21, 2024, we lost a tremendous set of hands that helped communities across Michigan.

Leonard Smith passed away at 89 years old. His years were spent fully, as husband, father and grandfather, a mentor, youth hockey coach, philanthropic leader, and so much more.
Leonard helped Rose Skillman establish The Skillman Foundation in 1960. He took over as president in 1964 and served in this role until 1999. He went on to lead the Ethel & James Flinn Foundation, served as a chairman for the Council of Michigan Foundations, and as a trustee for several Detroit-area foundations.
He was a mentor to many in philanthropy and a coach to youth hockey players who knew him as “Coach Smitty.”

The Skillman Foundation honors the memory of Leonard Smith, a man who committed himself to the betterment of the health, education, and well-being of others.

A remembrance reception will be held Saturday, February 17 at the Country Club of Detroit.

For more information about Leonard Smith’s legacy can be read here.

The Skillman Foundation

The Skillman Foundation is a grantmaking organization established in 1960 by Rose Skillman. We have granted out more than $730 million and have served as a vocal advocate to strengthen K-12 education, afterschool programming, child-centered neighborhoods, youth and community leadership, and racial equity and justice.

We are in the process of developing a new strategic framework, co-designed with Detroit youth and their champions.

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  • William Brodhead

    Along with Rose Skillman, Leonard Smith could be considered as the Co-Founder of the Skillman Foundation. When Mrs. Skillman passed away in 1983, Leonard was her attorney. It fell to him to carry out the instructions in her will to use the vast bulk of her estate to create a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of Detroit’s children.

    Leonard was the practical visionary who created the Foundation as we know it today. He led with patience, kindness and gentle persistence. As one of the initial directors of the Foundation, I saw Leonard make the transition from being a very highly-regarded lawyer to becoming not just the founding president of the Foundation but a leader of charities for children and youth not just in Detroit and Michigan but across the country. He was a champion for children.

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