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As schools welcomed students back for another year, the Detroit Tigers invited education leaders onto the field at Comerica Park to recognize them for the important contributions they make to the state of Michigan. The presidents of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University and the superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District were selected to throw out first pitches at Tigers games this fall.  

Supporting education has long been a priority for the Detroit Tigers and entire Ilitch organization. This takes shape in a number of ways, from celebrating educators and students during special school-themed Detroit Tigers and Red Wings games, ongoing partnerships with schools and universities, donations and volunteerism, and hands-on experience for students such as internships programs and in-school learning initiatives. 

Santa Ono, the 15th president of the University of Michigan, began his tenure in October 2022. With a background in immunology, Ono previously served as the president of the University of British Columbia. He was appointed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to serve on the Executive Committee of Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Growing Michigan Together Council.  

Kimberly Andrews Espy became Wayne State University’s 13th president on Aug. 1, 2023, and is the school’s first female president. With more than 25 years of experience in higher education, Espy previously served as provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).  Wayne State, located in The District Detroit, is home to the Mike Ilitch School of Business and recently awarded Marian Ilitch an honorary doctorate.

Dr. Nikolai Vitti is the second-longest serving superintendent in the history of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, which has a long-standing relationship with Ilitch Companies, with partnerships ranging from a summer internship program for Cass Tech students to the annual Evening of Fine Arts at the Fox Theatre. 

In addition to other ongoing initiatives, each year, students from University of Michigan, Wayne State and the Detroit Public Schools Community District also participate in Olympia Development of Michigan and Related Companies’ Project Destined internship program.