We sat down with philanthropist Lois Shaevsky of Bloomfield Hills at her favorite Metro Detroit spot, The Rugby Grille in The Townsend Hotel. She tells SEEN about her work with local charities, her iconic style and even how she helped name The Rugby Grille.
By Rachel Schostak
Photography by Viviana Pernot
1. Tell us about your background and work with charities in Metro Detroit. I am the president of Variety – the Children’s Charity of Detroit board of directors. I’ve served on many charitable organizations, including Beaumont Health Systems as co-chair of the Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center Heart to Heart Luncheon, CARE House of Oakland County, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Historical Society and Cabaret 313 board member. Currently, I serve on the executive committee for the University of Michigan Mary Weiser Food Allergy Center Luncheon and as Franklin Hills Country Club program co-chair.
Recently, I was named a 2018 “WJR Women Who Lead.” I was awarded the Pillar of Philanthropy Award during The Community House Bates Street Society Dinner, the George W. Romney Award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the George Riley Award by DPTV and the first Circle of Hope Award by the Child Abuse and Neglect Council of Oakland County.
2. You have been involved in the community and on the board of many organizations. Are there any moments that stand out to you? When I was involved with National Council of Jewish Women, we had a sale of upscale clothes at the Southfield Civic Center. It was called Fashion Spree 1981, and I had the idea to get celebrity clothes. I had asked some notable people (Joe Schmidt on the Lions, Tavy Stone, fashion editor for the Detroit News, and Shirley Eder who was a show biz lady) to donate, and successfully did it. The fire station had to shut down the event because it was so busy.
3. Currently you are president of Variety. Can you share how this organization is meaningful to you? One of the main reasons Variety appeals to me is it’s small enough to listen but big enough to make a difference.
4. What was your first job? My first job was at Irvington House that was in New York City on East 45th Street. It’s a home for children that have had rheumatic fever. I lived in NYC after I graduated from the University of Michigan. Specifically, I was in the fundraising division. I was in New York for about nine months and moved back to Detroit for a position as executive secretary of the Robert S. Marx Foundation. It was an interesting experience as I investigated all the various requests and grants and would report to the trustees. Then I moved into PR work for a workout company at Maple and Telegraph. I did marketing at The Townsend Hotel and helped name the Rugby Grille. I hosted the opening party in 1988.
When I started working, my kids were in school. Then after the Townsend, I really began to get involved with many charities in the community. I always have had an interest in charity work. Comes full circle – being on the giving and receiving side.
5. Any lessons you can share with those who want to get involved in the community? Start out as a volunteer of a charity you have interest in. Once you are on a committee, make sure to listen and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you have ideas that would be innovative for the organization. You should really be connected or use your time with an organization that really touches your heart.
Also, you’ll never know who you’ll meet — so be prepared. Many years ago, I was sitting on the plane next to the president of the Hearst Foundation when I was president of Good Will Foundation — and always raising money. He ended up giving a decent amount: $75,000.
6. Who do you admire in the nonprofit or charity world? David DiChiera, the founding director of the Michigan Opera Theatre. The Detroit Opera House was his baby. He started the movement and organization.
7. Who inspires you in the business world? Steve Jobs from Apple. He created products that people did not know they needed or wanted. Now he has changed the way the world operates. And, of course, my husband Mark Sheavsky, a prominent lawyer for Honigman for 44 years.
On to your personal style…
Head-to-toe outfit details from the photoshoot:
Clothing: Courreges dress and Prada coat.
Accessories: Chanel bag, Roberto Coin earrings and her grandmother’s necklace.
8. Your go-to outfit? Years ago, I wore Vicki Tiel designs. She had a lovely studio in Paris. Everything was strapless, tiny pleats and fitted. I absolutely loved the look. It was always exciting to go to her studio in Paris. Nowadays, I enjoy Chanel and Akris.
9. How would you describe your style? Current but always classic.
10. What do you typically wear to galas or benefits? Short dresses, since I am so little I have to dress for my height and comfort. Chanel dresses. I work with Daria at Saks who is wonderful.
11. Who inspires your style? Harriett Fuller — she was a model and created Productions Plus. And I always appreciated Grace Kelly’s style.
12. You’re never fully dressed without…? Glasses and my wedding ring (I’ve been married for 54 years).
13. You can never leave home without? My rolodex.
Your Local Love List…
14. Where do you like to spend most of your time? Franklin Hills — and I will share the back story — my parents joined before I was born, so I have been a member my entire life. I am in charge of programming there. I have put together some great speaking events with Dan Gilbert, Arn Tellem and many more. I am on the welcoming committee for new members. I love hosting all my family events and get-togethers there. Franklin Hills holds a special please in my heart.
16. Tell us about your history with the Townsend and when you worked for the hotel? I did marketing at The Towsend Hotel and helped name the Rugby Grille. I hosted the opening party in 1988. The first week the hotel opened we had Michael Jackson and Rod Stewart staying here. I have some interesting stories about those times and the guests who stayed there.
17. What are some of your favorite places to shop local? When it was around, I really enjoyed shopping locally at Jacobson’s. Currently, I shop at Saks, Neiman Marcus, Stuart Weitzman and Shades for my glasses.
18. Your favorite Detroit experience? I am a founding member of Cabaret 313, bringing in Broadway stars and shows into Detroit. We enjoy going downtown often — whether to the DAC or even Prime and Proper.
19. Your drink of choice? Arnold Palmer 😉
20. Words to live by or favorite quote?
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill
My grandson, when he was 7 years old, stated, “If you don’t ask – you don’t get.” I thought that was very relevant.