2023 George W. Romney Award

Shirley Stancato photo

Shirley Stancato

George W. Romney Award for Lifetime Achievement in Volunteerism

Nominated by Wayne State University
Shirley Stancato awardee video

Shirley Stancato is a name synonymous with unwavering dedication to education, volunteerism, leadership, and community service. As a native Detroiter, she has woven a tapestry of lasting impact throughout her lifetime.  
Shirley’s legacy is defined by her pivotal role in leading New Detroit, a coalition founded in 1967 by Governor George Romney, Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, and Joseph Hudson Jr. New Detroit is a formidable racial justice organization with the mission to promote racial equity in the city. Shirley’s leadership at New Detroit spanned nearly two decades, solidifying her status as a driving force behind the organization’s enduring commitment to social justice. Even in her retirement, she remains a New Detroit director emeriti.  
Prior to New Detroit, Stancato enjoyed a long career at NBD (now Chase Bank) where she became Senior Vice President. As a banking executive, Stancato led retail banking initiatives including consumer and mortgage lending and was responsible for community partnerships and the corporate giving program that supported community initiatives throughout Michigan.  
Committed to her alma mater, Wayne State University, Shirley serves as an elected volunteer member of the Board of Governors. Her professional and informed approach has greatly enriched the work of this influential governing body, reflecting her dedication to education.  
Shirley's academic journey started at Cass Technical High School, and she later earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wayne State University. Her contributions to advancing racial and social justice were recognized with an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Michigan.  
Beyond her involvement with Wayne State, Shirley extends her influence to several boards that reflect her values. These include the Coleman A. Young Foundation, Teach for America Michigan, the Detroit Zoological Society, Kids Kicking Cancer, Warrior Women Against Poverty, and International Women’s Forum Michigan.   
She also holds the position of Officer of the Board for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), where she chairs the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee. Shirley has used her decades-long efforts for civil rights to help enhance the DSO's engagement with Detroit's neighborhoods, develop DEI Guiding Principles that foster diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization, and establish the DSO's DEI Taskforce. Her leadership within Detroit’s institutions illustrates her commitment to shaping the city’s future.  
Yet Shirley’s remarkable work extends to the rest of Michigan. Governor Whitmer appointed her as the Co-Chair of the “Growing Michigan Together Council,” alongside Ambassador John Rakolta Jr. This statewide strategy focuses on attracting and retaining talent, improving education, upgrading infrastructure, and bolstering Michigan’s economic momentum.  
Shirley’s contributions to the community and philanthropy have earned her numerous accolades, including the Champion of Justice Award from the Michigan Delegation of the Congressional Black Caucus, City Year Detroit’s Idealist in Action Award, and recognition as a Woman of Achievement by the Anti-Defamation League. Crain’s Detroit Business acknowledged her as a Regional Power Broker, the Detroit Free Press bestowed its Neal Shine Award for Exemplary Regional Leadership, and The Detroit News honored her as a Michiganian of the Year.  
Shirley Stancato is an exceptional individual whose lifelong commitment to education volunteerism, community service, and diversity has left an indelible mark on Detroit and beyond. Her leadership and generosity has not only inspired organizations but has enriched the lives of countless individuals. Shirley is a true embodiment of the spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy.