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Mariam Noland Reflects on 36 Years Leading Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

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Image credit: Lisa Brancato/WDET

Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan President Mariam Noland says her plans to retire from the organization later this year will not stop her passion for philanthropy.

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Earlier this year, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan announced founding President Mariam Noland’s plans to retire at the end of 2021. 

My job is to encourage those with wealth to share it … even the community foundation’s growth is a testament to the fact that people care.” —Mariam Noland, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan  

Noland look backs at her career in philanthropy and the differences she has helped to make all over Southeast Michigan.

Listen: CFSEM President Mariam Noland’s impact on Detroit philanthropy.


Mariam Noland is founding president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, a nonprofit philanthropic organization. She says when she started in her role, the foundation had a premise of $1 million, which has since grown to a $1 billion in endowment. “The next [president of CFSEM] will take it to the next level of service for the whole community.” Noland says. CFSEM is now building a permanent endowment for the Great Lakes Way, a trail with over 150 miles of interconnected blue and greenway stretching from Port Huron to Toledo. “[CFSEM] really builds permanent capital, permanent endowment that benefits the seven-county region.”

On the role of philanthropy in public works, Noland says private foundations can’t replace government, but can hold it accountable. “Let’s not assume that we can … supplant what we must make sure the public sector does,” she says. ”Philanthropy can play a role, but every individual in the city … can make sure that our public services meet the standards we think we should meet.”

She says the highlight of her time at CFSEM was watching people realize their philanthropic goals every day. “My job is to encourage those with wealth to share it … even the community foundation’s growth is a testament to the fact that people care.”

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Nora Rhein, Detroit Today Intern

Nora Rhein works with the production team on “Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson” on 101.9 WDET. She’s very proud to be a public radio nerd.

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