2022 Spirit of Philanthropy Award

Dennis Archer photo


Dennis Archer, Chairman and CEO, Dennis W. Archer PLLC; Chairman Emeritus, Dickinson Wright, PLLC

Spirit of Philanthropy Award

Nominated by Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan


This spring marked a major milestone for former Detroit mayor’s Dennis W. Archer Scholarship Fund. Since 2001, it has provided nearly $2 million in scholarships for minority students at Wayne State University and Western Michigan University. For the past 20 years, more than 400 Archer Scholar awards have been granted.

Dennis Archer established the fund because he wanted to help students who were experiencing the same challenges that he faced during his college years. Dennis knew it was difficult to balance classes along with work and family. He wanted his Archer Scholar fund to serve as a vital link to assuring academic success by helping to ease the burden on students who might otherwise be forced to drop out of college. Another unique aspect to the scholarship is the consideration of students who may “fall through the cracks.” The Archer scholarship targets students that may not have the highest average grade point. They are solid students with potential.

Always a community-focused leader, in 2001 Dennis, asked the Community Foundation president, Mariam Noland, to assist in distributing funds remaining from his election “war chest.” With the help of the Community Foundation, Dennis provided funding totaling $1.2 million to 50 arts and cultural and nonprofit organizations in Detroit.

He also created the Dennis Archer Community Development Fund to build a permanent legacy for his lifelong commitment to the community. The purpose of this endowment fund is to improve neighborhoods and the lives of those who reside in the city of Detroit.

Since 2003, the Community Development Fund has provided more than $1.3 million to local organizations. For example, a recent grant to Detroit Food Commons, a grocery store and food business incubator in Detroit’s North End, is supporting a black-led, community-owned grocery cooperative with the intent of providing healthy food options and food education to Detroit residents. The co-op is slated to open in the summer of 2023.

Such an act of generosity is consistent with how Dennis is living his life. Throughout his career, Dennis’ contributions have included teaching disabled students, serving on the Michigan Supreme Court, and serving two terms as Mayor of Detroit. He also is a former president of the American Bar Association, National Bar Association, Michigan State Bar, the Wolverine Bar Association, and as Chair of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

The scholarship fund and Community Development Fund are important examples of how Dennis continues to lead and give back to the communities that mean so much to him.