Campus environment keeps bringing trustee back


Ryan Pini

Trustee Marianne Fey

Aside from making a name for herself in the business world, Board of Trustee member Marianne Fey plays an active role on campus.

Fey’s journey with Oakland University started in the late 1970s. The Saint Clair Shores native graduated from Chippewa Valley High School and began looking for a university experience without the overwhelming size.

“I didn’t want to be buried in a lecture hall with a teaching assistant teaching me,” Fey said.

Although Fey did apply to the bigger Michigan colleges, Oakland captured her attention with its smaller size and culture. At the time, there were around 8,000 to 10,000 students attending OU.

For three years, Fey lived on campus calling Hamlin Hall and Hill House home. She still remembers the trek from Hamlin Hall to Varner Hall in the winter, especially with not many buildings around to block the wind.

While campus has changed with the addition of new buildings since her time here as a student, Fey said it still has the personal feel.

“There are still so many beautiful open spaces,” Fey said.

As an undergraduate, Fey discovered a love for art and art history and became very involved with the then Meadow Brook Gallery where she worked under gallery curator Kiichi Usui. Fey had a hands-on role with helping put together new shows and exhibits, making slides and taking pictures of different pieces of art. One main project Usui had for her was to inventory every piece of art on campus.

“I got to peek into all of the buildings on campus,” Fey said.

Besides working at the art gallery, Fey was active in sports playing on intramural volleyball and tennis teams. Skiing was also an interest for her. Fey along with her friend group named “Six Pack” would go on ski trips with a few traveling to Vermont.

One of the fondest memories of Fey’s college career comes from time spent at the Abstention after being introduced to it by the jazz musicians who lived a floor above her in Hamlin Hall. The Abstention was low profile as it was a small room in the lower level of the Oakland Center where student jazz musicians would come to riff.

“You never knew who would show up,” Fey said. “Nothing was structured. You just show up there and hear great music. Those are the memories that are so cool.”

In 1980, Fey graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications. She later on attended Michigan State University for her Master’s in Business Administration.

Fey’s professional career has had her take on a variety of roles within marketing and communications. Some of the companies she has spent time with include The Competitive Edge, McCann Erickson and DWH. Fey has had her accomplishments recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business “40 under 40” and twice by Automotive News’ 100 Leading Women in North America.

Fey feels Oakland is to credit for preparing her for life after college. Being a good writer has always been an important trait to Fey. After she received a D on a class paper her first year at OU, Fey spent much of her time practicing and refining her writing skills.

“That was the biggest and best thing I did for myself,” Fey said. “Oakland University definitely helped me there. I’ve hired hundreds of people over the years. The number one thing in terms of being better in whatever you’re going to do is working on your writing. I like how Oakland has provided a lot more support and services in the Writing Center.”

Although she has had an abundance of professional success, Fey believes her greatest accomplishment is yet to come since she is still working on different projects.

Since success isn’t built overnight and can be a tiring process, Fey retired from her global business position at McCann five years ago. The time away allowed her to spend more time with her family and helped her become like a “sponge” absorbing and learning new information again.

“Sometimes you have to take a half step back and see what’s important,” Fey said.

Fey now works as a consultant for organizations looking to grow, improve or to get buyers. The work deals a lot with manufacturing companies and lets Fey expand her intellectual vocabulary since she is in a more entrepreneur place that works with growing businesses.

“I’ve learned so much about different kinds of industries,” Fey said.

Although she has been busy with her career, Fey finds time to lend time to several organizations. Her first experience being on a board was when she became an adviser for the OU Magazine. Since then, Fey has served on many boards such as the OU Alumni Association board and the OU College of Arts and Science advisory board where she was the chairman. She now serves on the Detroit Public Television board and is an Emeritus board member. Fey also serves as a board member for Invest Michigan, an organization that invests in Michigan based start-up businesses. Other organizations Fey is involved with include such Tech Town, Michigan Women’s Foundation and Inforum.

“I just like being around these people,” Fey said. “I want to see this university continue to succeed. Coming up here isn’t about ‘duty,’ it’s about love.”

As for being on the Board of Trustees for Oakland, Fey never really considered it until she became interested in joining the presidential search committee to find a replacement for Gary Russi. After trying to get details about joining the search committee, Fey’s friend and former Trustee Monica Emerson asked her if she was interested in becoming a Trustee.

“She really put the bug in my ear,” Fey said.

After that exchange, Fey went to work researching the position. Since Oakland’s Board of Trustees are appointed by the governor of Michigan, interested applicants have to fill out an application, get referred to the governor and go through rounds of interviews.

Her first attempt of getting on the Board ultimately did not succeed. However, Fey received a call two years later asking if she was still interested in the position. She accepted and was appointed in the summer of 2016 for a term lasting until 2020.

One of the first projects Fey was involved with right after her appointment was the presidential search that resulted in Ora Hirsch Pescovtiz’s appointment.

“The first year of my trustee experience was probably different,” Fey said.

What many students may not know is that all Board of Trustee positions are voluntary, and the Board does not run the day-to-day operations of the university. The main duty of a trustee on the OU Board is to be responsible for strategic planning and oversight of the president. In addition, they also act as an ambassador for the university, especially when it comes to business relations. There are also different committees within the board that take on different responsibilities and issues. In the end, however, all topics such as tuition increases and campus additions do need to get approved by the Board as a whole.

“[Trustees are] all doing it for the love of it,” Fey said. “I think students should know every single one of us cares about getting them the best experience they can have.”

Fey has two more years left of her current term and hopes to get reappointed when her term ends. As for right now, she is looking forward to working with President Pescovitz and seeing what else she will accomplish.

“She’s a pleasure to work with, and she’s so passionate about the university,” Fey said. “I think the students love her. She has stepped up in so many ways for this university in just a year.”


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