Michigan Women Foundation CEO and President Carolyn Cassin tells SEEN about supporting women in business and how she turned the pain from losing a child into a career fighting for patients.
By Stephanie Steinberg
Photography by Boswell Hardwick
Name: Carolyn Cassin
City: Grosse Pointe Farms
Job Title: President and CEO of Michigan Women’s Foundation and general partner of BELLE Michigan Impact Fund
In 2009, Carolyn Cassin accepted the leadership of the Michigan Women’s Foundation, Michigan’s only public statewide foundation dedicated to helping women and girls realize economic self-sufficiency and social equality. Highlights of her accomplishments at MWF include the development of a microloan fund for women-owned and managed businesses and a venture capital fund for women, Belle Michigan.
Cassin is a national expert in end-of-life care and an accomplished health care entrepreneur. In addition to her work with the foundation, Cassin started and held leadership positions with the National Hospice Work Group, a professional coalition of CEOs from the nation’s largest and most innovative hospices.
Her professional successes include 10 years as CEO of Hospice of Michigan and the COO of VistaCare, the first venture capital-backed national hospice. She also oversaw the development of Michigan’s $1.5 billion Medicaid Managed Care Program and led Continuum Hospice Care in New York City to become NYC’s largest hospice program.
In 2016, Cassin was selected to the Board of Directors of the Detroit Economic Club and named one of The 100 Most Influential Women by Crain’s Detroit Business.
Cassin earned her Master of Public Administration degree from Western Michigan University, her BA from Miami University and the three-year National Leadership Fellowship from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.
1. What are you currently working on?
Investing in the best and brightest women in Michigan.
2. What is your greatest accomplishment?
My marriage, three incredible children and changing the world for dying patients in America.
3. What is an obstacle you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
I had a son who died when he was four days old. It was a horrific experience, but it drew me to hospice, which became my career and my life for over 30 years. I ran toward my pain, and tried to do something to fix it — for myself and for everyone who experiences the loss of someone they love.
4. What motivates you each day?
The courageous women I meet every day who are changing the world by starting their own company.
5. What’s the biggest issue facing women today?
Presence and power. First women have to have a spot the table. Women need to be at every table so their influence can be felt. But that is not enough. Then we have to use our voice to assume positions of power and influence. Then the world will change.
6. How can we address or resolve that issue?
Constantly pointing out where women are not. Whether it is a panel of all men or a boardroom with no gender diversity, we must speak up and use every means to influence change.
7. What advice do you have for other women?
Do what you are passionate about. Find work that excites you and that you would do even if you didn’t get paid for it!
8. What’s something others may not know about you?
I’d give anything (almost!) to be on “Dancing with the Stars!”