Trustee, alumna was champion of WMU, Southeast Michigan

Contact: Deanne Puca
Shani Penn

Shani J. Penn

Former Board of Trustees Vice Chair Shani J. Penn, BBA ‘00, passed away Aug. 15, 2023, in Detroit.

A “steward of service beyond self,” she was a member of several boards in Southeast Michigan, an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and served as a WMU trustee since 2016. Penn called Detroit home and was the president and CEO of JPW Strategies LLC, a consulting firm founded in 2012. During her career, she also worked for DaimlerChrysler Financial Services and Chrysler Financial and served as interim chancellor and chief of staff of the Education Achievement Authority, senior strategy advisor to former Gov. Rick Snyder and chief of staff to former Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

“Fidelity was at the heart of Shani’s existence, well beyond her family members. At Western, she advocated for students, faculty and staff members to have full access to opportunities that might not be afforded to them. Shani would enter a building or walk across campus and greet others by name. As a 2000 alumna with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, she was a formidable presence on campus who easily built connections and generously shared connectivity to her network with those who aspired to be in leadership roles. The ask in return was only that those who found success would, in turn, lift those around them,” says President Edward Montgomery.

As a trustee, Penn was elected vice chair in January 2023 and was vocal regarding student mental health and well-being, state affairs, Greek life, civil rights and social justice, presidential assessment, alumni recognition and organizational achievement.

“As vice chair of the Board of Trustees and as a leader in many other public as well as business realms, Shani was a strong advocate for the causes that were dear to her heart: equal opportunity, education and young people were among them. As a trustee, Shani understood and skillfully upheld the fiduciary responsibilities we carry as a board, impacting thousands of Broncos. She was a dedicated agent in our efforts to realize Western’s enduring mission, ‘So that all may learn.’ And she cared deeply about advancing her beloved Detroit as well as her home state,” adds Shelly Edgerton, BS ’81, MPA ’83, WMU board chair.

She was named one of Michigan Chronicle’s Women of Excellence in 2012 and Emerging Leaders in 2013, selected in 2014 to the American Marshall Memorial Fellowship for the German Marshall Fund of the United States and was recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business as a member of its 2014 “40 Under 40” class. ■