Tonya Allen, a serial “idea-preneur,” serves as the Skillman Foundation’s president and 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 people, especially children, who live in under-resourced communities. In her current role, Allen aligns the complexities of education reform, urban revitalization, and public policy to improve the well-being of Detroit’s and the nation’s children. Allen has been instrumental in many successful philanthropic, government and community initiatives, including:
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. Allen was named 1 of 20 Bicentennial Alumni from University of Michigan. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s 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.
Before joining the Skillman Foundation in 2004, Allen worked as a program officer for both the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Thompson-McCully Foundation. She founded Detroit Parent Network, a parent membership organization dedicated to improving educational options for children, and led the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Rebuilding Communities Initiative in Detroit.
Allen’s personal ambition is to live a balanced, joyful and authentic life. Her sense of humor and faith keep her inspired and grounded as she works to make Detroit, the city she loves, a better, stronger, more thriving place for children. She’s married to husband, Louis, and has three daughters, Phylicia, Brianna and Alanna.