Foundation hires director of Michigan programs


Faye Alexander Nelson. Courtesy W.K. Kellogg Foundation

A foundation in the region has named its new director of Michigan programs.

The Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation said last month it hired Faye Alexander Nelson for the role.

Nelson, who will be based in the foundation’s Detroit office, will be responsible for providing leadership and oversight of the foundation's investments in Michigan, which are meant to create conditions that ensure children have opportunities to thrive in equitable communities.

She will lead the foundation's statewide grant-making priorities in collaboration and partnership with grantees, communities and other stakeholders throughout the region.

"Faye's leadership and deep knowledge of crafting community partnerships will only strengthen our work on behalf of children in Michigan," said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "Her extensive experience with nonprofits, corporations and high-level redevelopment projects will further the bold efforts already underway in Battle Creek, Detroit and Grand Rapids."

Nelson's background

Most recently, Nelson served as the 2017-2018 Sojourner Truth Fellow at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Using the transformation of the Detroit riverfront as a case study, Nelson and graduate students examined the impact of placemaking and public space development in urban communities like Detroit.

Previously, Nelson was VP of DTE Energy and president and board chair of the DTE Energy Foundation. During her tenure, she co-led the restructuring of the foundation and oversaw its annual grant-making to over 400 nonprofits throughout Michigan.  

Nelson has also served as the inaugural president and CEO of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy and helped lead the restoration of the Detroit riverfront.

During Nelson's ten-year tenure, she oversaw the public-private partnership transformation of the abandoned industrial waterfront into a public space of more than 3.5 miles of parks, plazas, pavilions and pathways. To date, the riverfront receives more than three-million annual visitors and has generated more than $1 billion in public and private investment.

She is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and a life member of the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference.

She also serves on the board of several Detroit-area organizations, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Henry Ford Health System and Health Network, and she spent 14 years on the board of Compuware Corporation.

Over her career, Nelson has received numerous awards: Crain's Detroit Business 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan; Walsh College Jeffery Barry Education Excellence and Community Service Award; Damon J. Keith 24th-Annual Soul and Spirit Humanitarian Award; Grio's 100 African-American History Makers, presented by NBC News; and the Milliken Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan Environmental Council.

She holds a B.A. in political science from Mercy College of Detroit and a law degree from the University of Detroit School of Law.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was founded in 1930 as an independent and private foundation by the breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg.

The foundation works throughout the U.S. and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes.

The foundation’s primary focus is on impoverished communities where children face significant barriers to success. The work is primarily in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans, as well as Mexico and Haiti.

It has six offices outside of Battle Creek: Grand Rapids; Detroit; Jackson, Mississippi; Albuquerque, New Mexico; New Orleans; and Mexico.

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