Ask Shirley Stancato what’s helped to make her successful and she’ll respond with one word — family. Growing up, she was instilled with the importance of service to others above all else.
Most recently, the Detroit native and Wayne State University Board of Governors member spent nearly two decades as the head of the nonprofit New Detroit, a coalition of leaders working to achieve racial understanding and equity in metropolitan Detroit, where she served as the organization's first female and longest-serving president, leading many initiatives aimed at improving race relations in the region. And during her long career in the banking industry, filled with many “firsts,” Stancato rose through the ranks to become senior vice president at Bank One (now Chase Bank).
It’s these past accomplishments and more that recently garnered the attention of MichBusiness, formerly known as the Michigan Business and Professional Association, as they induct Stancato into the prestigious Michigan Business Women Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony and awards celebration takes place on Thursday, May 13, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., during MichBusiness’ digital Women Thrive Conference. As an inductee, Stancato will also be featured in the May/June issue of Corp! Magazine.
“Both my parents have passed, but the first thing I thought about when hearing the news about my induction is that Mom and Dad would smile at this,” Stancato said. “They taught us that it wasn’t about you. It was about others and the impact you can have. The fact that this is for women in business is great, but it's more about the impact you have in making life better for people in Michigan.”
Criteria for induction include women leaders who have not only had significant business success, many at a global level, but who have also made Michigan a better place to live and work through their efforts. This year’s event also celebrates millennial Shooting Stars and Women Leadership in the Workplace honorees, in addition to a week-long focus on education and networking.
Stancato, who graduated from Cass Technical High School, earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wayne State University. She also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Michigan. Stancato came to WSU after earning a full-ride scholarship from the Elliottorian Business and Professional Women’s Club, which holds the distinction of being the first club of Black business women in Detroit and the state of Michigan; the presenter of Detroit’s first observation of “Negro History Week” in 1931; and a longtime provider of scholarships for deserving students, regardless of “race, creed or color.”
She still recalls her first day at Wayne State and how it affected her parents, neither of whom had completed high school. Her father was a skilled-construction worker and her mother was a homemaker. Her mom drove Stancato to Science Hall for her first class, even though the family lived only 2 miles away on Wabash Street in Detroit.
“When I got home that night, my mom said, ‘I want you to know I've never felt prouder in my life that I was able to take you to your first day of college,’” Stancato said. “As a first-generation college student, it was not just an experience for me, it was an experience for the whole family, too. And that’s what Wayne State gave to me, which I know it has for so many.”
Stancato joins this year’s other Hall of Fame inductees U.S. Rep. (and former WSU Board of Governor) Debbie Dingell; Florine Mark, president and CEO of Weight Watchers; Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget Mary McCormack; Rochelle Riley, director of arts and culture for the City of Detroit; and Leslie Murphy, president and CEO of Murphy Consulting.