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Tonya Allen
President and Chief Executive Officer
The Skillman Foundation

Detroit Uplift 2020 Board Member Since: April 2016
Board Chair

Tonya Allen, a serial “idea-preneur,” serves as the Foundation’s president & chief executive officer. Her two-decade long career has centered on pursuing, executing and investing in ideas that improve her hometown of Detroit and reduce the plight of underserved people, especially children. Allen has been instrumental in many successful philanthropic, government and community initiatives and has a comprehensive understanding of philanthropic governance and strategy.

In her current role, Allen aligns the complexities of education reform, urban revitalization and public policy, so that these sometimes divergent areas of work come together to improve the well-being of Detroit’s children. She served as the architect of the 10-year, $100 million Good Neighborhoods Initiative. She was deeply involved in the development and design of key education improvement strategies including Excellent Schools Detroit, Michigan Future Schools and the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren.

Allen was named to Crain’s Detroit Business 40 under 40 list, received the national Brick Award given to activists under age 30 by Rolling Stone Magazine, and was one of the first Detroiters to receive the prestigious Marshall Memorial Fellowship. She was named a Detroit News Michiganian of the Year in 2015, a Crain's Detroit Business Newsmaker of the Year in 2015, and one of the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s "5 nonprofit innovators to watch”in 2013. She holds a bachelor's degree in sociology and masters' degrees in social work and public health, all from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She serves on numerous boards, both local and national, including Oakland University, Council on Foundations, Council of Michigan Foundations, United Way for Southeastern Michigan and Campaign for Black Male Achievement. 

She’s married to Louis Allen, and has three daughters, Phylicia, Brianna and Alanna. Together, the couple owns and operates a Christian entertainment company, Highly Favored Productions.