Living for Relationships
Having the ability to connect, influence and bring people together is a unique ability that few can master. Eugene Applebaum not only loved building relationships — he lived to build relationships. Being a strategic relationship convener was a major definition of his success as a business and philanthropic leader and forms one of the key aims of his family’s philanthropy.
While having a naturally contagious and infectious personality, Eugene Applebaum was thoughtful about the relationship decisions he made. His passion for Detroit was always a constant driver. He long had a vision for a strengthened, more vibrant metropolitan community and sought to accomplish this through individual determination and perseverance, and even more importantly, convening vital stakeholders and institutions.
Vision for Detroit and Wayne State
A centerpiece of this vision was the many monumental efforts at his alma mater, Wayne State University. Eugene knew that Detroit’s strength pivoted on the vitality of its urban university center – Wayne State. Eugene served as the inaugural chair of Wayne State’s Foundation, helping to raise millions of philanthropic dollars and coalesce key community leaders to its ranks. He provided major financial support and lead the fundraising to establish the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
Presentation from Wayne State University’s 150 Celebration where Eugene Applebaum served as co-chair, 2018
The Eugene Applebaum Chair
In 2008, he established The Eugene Applebaum Chair in Community Engagement in honor of his friend, Dr. Irvin D. Reid, past president of Wayne State University, who was appointed as the inaugural holder of the Chair. The Applebaum Chair became “a catalyst for cooperation between the university and community organizations on issues in business and economic development, education, health, international outreach and other areas” [Applebaum Chair, WSU]. Above all, the goal of Applebaum Chair was to advance Wayne State as a central convener and link to Detroit and its people.
A main program of the Applebaum Chair was the Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society (FOCIS). A creation of Dr. Irvin Reid, “FOCIS” aimed to “focus” the university’s problem-solving resources on an eclectic range of topics important to the campus community and Detroit.
For over 10 years, nationally and internationally celebrated speakers presented 20 lectures on addressing economic, social and cultural topics of critical and topical importance, encouraging community participation and engagement. From political discussions with Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, to national security with General Wesley Clarke and media trailblazers Bob Woodward and Arianna Huffington, the guest speakers were thought provoking and initiated community dialogue with maximum ripple effect.
The Apple Does Not Fall Far from the Tree
Relationship convening programs like FOCIS helped to form the foundation for the Applebaum Fellows Program: bringing together individuals and community groups in an intentional setting to inspire leadership, education, and entrepreneurism. Eugene Applebaum taught his daughters and his grandchildren that leadership is not always philanthropy and philanthropy is not always leadership. He demonstrated that bringing people together can make the impossible possible, and ultimately is the embodiment of leadership AND philanthropy.
“In my 50 years as a faculty and academic leader, I have known no one as committed to bringing the benefits of higher education to his fellow citizens as was Eugene Applebaum, Wayne State alumnus, benefactor and visionary. He was also my dear friend who in his own way inspired me to do my best on behalf of the university, the community and the world. He urged me to bring international speakers to the campus to inspire the greater Detroit community; it was he who urged me to follow up on my dreams to introduce Wayne State’s students, faculty, and staff to democracy in other countries so that they could better appreciate their own democracy at home. Gene wanted me to foster a greater relationship between WSU and the Detroit voters through community engagement programs such as CitizenDetroit which along with the Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society (FOCIS) brought thousands of Detroiters to the campus virtually every year for more than 10 years to participate in dialogue and engagement with each other.
As I reflect on the legacy of my dear friend, I think about the wonderful letters that students, citizens, and friends have written to the university to thank us for the extraordinary experiences they received through programs made possible by Mr. Applebaum. We still occasionally receive letters or emails seeking information about the next FOCIS event or the next study abroad opportunity. It is a legacy which the Applebaum Foundation should cherish and of which Applebaum Family members should always be proud.”
– Irvin D Reid, 2019
Image: Eugene & Marcia Applebaum with Dr. Irvin Reid at the Globalization and Immigration FOCIS Lecture, 2008
Image: (from left) Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, Dr. Irvin Reid, Nettie Seabrooks, Eugene Applebaum, Alfred Taubman and Sidney Forbes gather at the Globalization and Immigration FOCIS Lecture, 2008
Image: A decade of engagement, Vicente Fox presented at the lecture series in 2008 with “Globalization and Immigration” and in 2017 with “Immigration” (pictured above)
Image: The impressive and diverse lecture lineup including (from top): Arianna Huffington, Vicente Fox, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, Robert D. Putnam, Bob Woodward, Gloria Steinem and Gen. (Ret.) David H. Petraeus.
Images courtesy of Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Applebaum Family Philanthropy Archives and Monica Morgan Photography
Learn more about the FOCIS Lecture Series: