2019 SEEN Changemaker Lynette Dowler

December 2, 2019

For 30 years, Lynette Dowler, president of the DTE Energy Foundation, has invested in her community, developing programs for Michigan prisoners, domestic violence shelters and more

By Carmen Nesbitt

Photography by Hayden Stinebaugh

Serving others has defined Lynette Dowler, 56, of Newport long before she became president of the DTE Energy Foundation in 2018.

For 30 years, she and her husband have invested in their community through volunteerism, board service and mission trips to Moldova and Honduras. “My heart is in service, and service to our community,” Dowler says. So, when the DTE Energy Foundation needed a new president, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to combine her “personal passion” with her leadership experience.

Courtesy of Lynette Dowler

Dowler spent 36 years overseeing DTE Energy’s central power plants. Under her leadership, DTE was recognized for best-in-industry safety, and its River Rouge Power Plant was honored with a Regional Corporate Habitat of the Year Award in 2010. During this time, she served on the board of The Foundation at Monroe County Community College. In 2014, she was elected trustee of MCCC, a role she still holds. 

Her first act as president of the DTE Foundation was to define the nonprofit’s development strategy. She says she began by “cleaning up” the grant application process and specifying its six priority giving areas: arts and culture, community transformation, economic progress, education and employment, environment, and human needs.

This summer, she helped launch a tree-trimming training program for Michigan prisoners. Dowler worked with organizations across Michigan to ensure a partnership between the foundation and the Michigan Department of Corrections would benefit all parties — most importantly, inmates.

Courtesy of Lynette Dowler

“It is really centered around giving those that are current inmates the opportunity to come out of prison and have a second chance at life, at success,” Dowler says. “And our belief is that prison ends when they’re released. It’s not a lifetime conviction.” With a $100,000 grant, 24 inmates from Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson took part in the pilot program. Tree-trimming is a well-paid and in-demand skill, and inmates will be better prepared for life after prison, Dowler says. The foundation hopes to expand the program in upcoming years.

However, Dowler says her biggest “pride point” was a grant she helped facilitate in honor of October’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The DTE Foundation donated $400,000, which will be distributed among every state-approved domestic violence shelter in Michigan. The amount each shelter receives will be determined by the number of beds they have to help those in need.

Over the next year, Dowler will continue DTE Energy Foundation’s legacy of service, a legacy that has always been part of who she is. “Lynette is a dedicated mentor to team members across our organization,” says DTE spokeswoman Colleen Creagh Rosso. “Her positivity is contagious, and her level of integrity is unmatched. I’ve known Lynette for two years and can honestly say that she has influenced my outlook both professionally and personally.”

Lynette Dowler is the 2019 SEEN Changemaker in Philanthropy. Read more about the 2019 SEEN Changemakers here.

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