Erb Family Foundation chair named 2024 Milliken Award recipient

The Michigan Environmental Council is pleased to announce that John Erb, chair of the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, has been selected as the 2024 recipient of the Helen & William Milliken Distinguished Service Award. This award recognizes individuals who show outstanding leadership, enduring commitment and extraordinary public service in protecting the air we breathe, our water and the places we love.

“John’s commitment to the environment carries on the incredible leadership legacy of Governor Milliken and Mrs. Milliken,” said Environmental Council President & CEO Conan Smith. “We are proud to honor him as the 26th winner of this award. He joins a group of remarkable people who have championed lasting protections for Michigan's air, our water and the places we love.” (To see previous winners, click here.)

The Erb Family Foundation has made more than $165 million in grants that advance an environmentally healthy and culturally vibrant metro Detroit and a flourishing Great Lakes ecosystem. This funding has helped to improve water quality in watersheds that affect metro Detroit and Bayfield, Ontario; promote environmental health and justice; and advance sustainable business in southeast Michigan.

Since 2007, John has stewarded that work with great care, bringing his parents’ vision of creating a better world for current and future generations to life through various projects.

Under John’s leadership, the Foundation has helped to establish University of Michigan’s Water Center; partnered with the Detroit Zoo to eliminate the sale of water bottled in plastic; encouraged local, state, and regional collaboration around critical issues impacting the Great Lakes through the Healing Our Waters—Great Lakes Coalition; and enabled five watershed organizations in southeast Michigan to partner with researchers at the University of Maryland to produce socio-environmental report cards that will enable the region to develop a shared understanding of the challenges facing our rivers and watersheds and build a vision for improving them.

In 2022, the Erb Family Foundation announced a 10 year spend-down strategy for more than $330 million in assets,concluding its grantmaking in 2035. The move will empower the Foundation to allow its assets to have the longest and greatest impact on their grantmaking areas. Under John’s leadership, the Foundation will continue to seek ways to have a lasting, transformative impact on the health and resilience of the Great Lakes ecosystem for generations to come.

Erb was named Michigan Executive of the Year in 2022 by Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business and the 2019 Russell G. Mawby award for philanthropy from the Council of Michigan Foundations. He has served on the board of many organizations, including the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Detroit Zoological Society, and The Nature Conservancy. In addition, he has held advisory roles for the Erb Institute for Sustainable Enterprise and the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan.

John Erb will be honored at the Milliken Award Celebration on August 29, 2024, 6-8:30 pm, at The Henry Ford. The celebration is one of the Michigan environmental movement’s signature annual events, attracting upwards of 250 guests from around the state. To reserve tickets, become an event sponsor or obtain more details, contact chief operating officer Joe Bower at [email protected].


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  • Grace Noyola
    published this page in News 2024-05-29 08:53:13 -0400