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Gary Torgow Headshot

EMU names Huntington Bank chairman as Dec. 17 commencement speaker

Eastern Michigan University selected Gary Torgow to serve as commencement speaker at the university’s ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023. The fall commencement takes place at the George Gervin GameAbove Center beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Approved by the EMU Board of Regents on Oct. 19, Torgow will receive an honorary doctorate of commercial science degree.

Torgow is the chairman of Huntington Bank's Board of Directors. He was appointed in June 2021 and has ample experience in the professional business realm. His leadership within the bank has aided in the bank’s expansion and positive reputation as a trusted institution.

Huntington Bank isn’t the only organization Torgow exercises his expertise and leadership. He is involved in numerous philanthropic organizations where he serves on the board. Torgow serves on the board of DTE Energy Company and as a director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. He is a trustee of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and on the executive board of Business Leaders of Michigan. In addition, he serves on the boards of the Detroit Regional Partnership, Invest Detroit, and The Skillman Foundation. Through these organizations, he supports economic development, healthcare, and the arts in the communities he serves.  

Torgow’s position on the board of The Skillman Foundation incorporates an infusion of management and philanthropy. The Skillman Foundation is centered around supporting the youth of Detroit in order to make meaningful impacts on the educational system so that it is more tailored towards what the students require to reach their aspirations. Being a part of the board of trustees requires administrative and financial guidance.

According to The Skillman Foundation’s website, the organization has granted out more than $750 million and has served as a vocal advocate to strengthen K-12 education, afterschool programming, child-centered neighborhoods, youth, community leadership, and racial equity and justice.

These leadership roles have been influenced by the mentors Torgow has had in his life.

Torgow guest starred on a podcast by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. On the podcast, he discussed important mentors he has had in his life. Torgow spoke of how his grandfather was a driving force in his life. When he was 16-year-old, his grandfather was placed on a boat in Russia and immigrated to the shores of Windsor, later ending up in Detroit. In addition, Torgow touched on Avrohom Abba Freedman, a rabbi in Detroit, who had a significant impact on his life. Freedman was such a pillar in Torgow’s life that in 2007 Torgow authored a book titled, “Holy Warrior, Rabbi Avrohom Abba Freedman”.

Even with the extensive list of Torgow’s participation on various Michigan boards and volunteer efforts, the selection process for the keynote speaker is not taken lightly. 

Melissa Thrasher, director of Media Relations at Eastern Michigan University, explained how the university selected Torgow to congratulate the EMU graduates. 

“The Commencement Speaker Advisory Committee solicits feedback from the campus community and donors to help generate potential keynote speakers," Thrasher said. "The university considers characteristics ranging from successful alum [alumni] to how well their message will resonate with students.”

After gathering community feedback and narrowing down characteristics that will benefit the students, the committee then sorts through and begins the search for a speaker. 

“The committee then generates a list of names and background information for review and discussion before submitting recommendations for further consideration by the president,“ Thrasher said. "Once a candidate is selected, the Board of Regents will approve the candidate selection."

The ceremony's doors will open at 8 a.m. and the commencement will begin at 9:30 a.m.