Wayne State alum, nonprofit super volunteer to receive young leader award

David Jesse
Detroit Free Press
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As Robert Reaves thought about where to go to college, Wayne State University was at the top of his list. So it's no surprise that the two-time graduate currently working on a third degree from the Detroit school is active in the school's alumni community and works at the medical school.

It's also a natural fit with Reaves' philosophy on giving back to the community.

"I chose organizations that played a meaningful role in my life," said Reaves, 32, of Detroit.

When Reaves gets involved, he goes all in. His skills and talents have allowed him to play key roles in several Detroit organizations and he's hoping to join others.

Those abilities are why Reaves is this year's honoree for the Dave Bing Future Leader Award, part of the Shining Light Awards that recognize regional leadership. The honors are presented by the Free Press and the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition.   

"It is a truly an honor," he said of the selection. "I don't take it lightly. This award for me is another indication I'm on the right path (with my community service). I know I also have a responsibility as an honoree of this award to continue" to serve and help the community.

In his professional life, Reaves is the director of accreditation for Wayne State's medical school. He arrived in 2016, just as the school was going through a series of challenges and questions about its future.

He helped senior leadership develop a path forward for the school.

Meet the 2021 Shining Light honorees:

►Former Detroit police chief and deputy mayor 'Ike' McKinnon lauded for regional leadership

Beaumont doc to receive leadership award: 'Her passion is listening to patients'

RSVP: Reaves will be honored during a virtual ceremony Oct. 7. Click here to RSVP

"We have improved," he said. "We're in a really good place."

Reaves has an impressive résumé outside of his professional work. He's the board president of Wayne State's Alumni Association, the board chair of strategic planning for the Ronald McDonald House Charities Detroit and an ambassador for the Michigan Opera Theatre.

Each of those organizations have a direct tie to Reaves' life.

He graduated from Wayne State with a bachelor's in public relations in 2011 and an MBA in 2015. He's on track for a master's in public administration in 2023.

Helping to improve Wayne State and represent it — both in his professional life and his volunteer life — is important to him.

Reaves had a relative stay at the Ronald McDonald House when he was a child, so when Reaves was in college and started thinking about helping out in the community, the nonprofit was a natural fit.

And in college, he fell in love with opera and spends his free time at various Detroit cultural and arts events.

"I love the cultural arts in the city of Detroit," Reaves said.

He also has racked up a number of honors, including: Crain's Detroit Business 20 in their 20s; DBusiness 30 in their 30s; and Michigan Chronicle 40 under 40s luminaries. Most recently, he earned the Crain’s 2021 Notable Nonprofit Board Members award.

Those who know him say the awards are simply pointing out what people who serve alongside him already know.

"Robert Reaves is one of the most dedicated, committed and motivated volunteers I have seen in my 36-year history of nonprofit management,"  said Jennifer Litomisky, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities Detroit, in a nominating letter. She points out that when Reaves was first involved with the organization, he helped launch several events that brought in money from new sponsors and helped recruit new volunteers. He also led the development of a new strategic plan for the charity.

"We are embarking on the development of a diversity and inclusion task force, where Robert will play an important role in guiding the team to many positive outcomes," Litomisky said. "As always, Robert is the first to raise his hand and make a commitment to serving on the task force, to lend his expertise and assist the organization in all future planning on this team and many others. His commitment is unwavering."

Reaves doesn't plan to stop helping out, even though his time on the various boards he currently serves on may be coming to an end because of term limits.

"There are several other organizations I'd love to serve with," he said.

And long-term, he's thinking about public service, perhaps in economic development in the government. Wherever Reaves lands, he is going to keep helping metro Detroit.

"Doing good in the community has always been a passion of mine." 

Contact David Jesse: 313-222-8851 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @reporterdavidj. Subscribe to the Detroit Free Press.

How to watch the Shining Light ceremony

During a virtual ceremony at 8 a.m. on Oct. 7, the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition and the Detroit Free Press  will honor Isaiah "Ike" McKinnon, Dr. Asha Shahjahan and Robert Reaves as this year's Shining Light honorees. 

RSVP to watch at https://bit.ly/ShiningLight2021

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