Cynthia Wilbanks, the University of Michigan’s vice president for government relations, was selected as the United Way of Washtenaw County’s 2017 Woman of the Year Monday afternoon and will be honored at the UWWC’s “Power of the Purse” event in March.

According to a press release, Wilbanks was selected because of her leadership in the community and efforts to improve Washtenaw County, including serving four years as the University’s United Way campaign chair.

“I am deeply honored by this recognition by the Washtenaw United Way,”  Wilbanks wrote in an email interview. “Some of the most gratifying work that we can do is to help improve and enhance the communities in which we live, work and play.  Without fanfare or recognition, hundreds, if not thousands, in our community are actively engaged in non-profit work and providing support.  My involvement is motivated by a belief that we are collectively better when we each contribute to our community’s well-being, and that is a belief that I have tried to live over the course of my adult life.” 

UWWC President Pam Smith said Wilbanks was chosen for her often unseen work to support the community surrounding the University.

“Cynthia is a quiet hero in our community, working tirelessly for nonprofits and she exemplifies what the Power of the Purse initiative is about: women taking action to address community issues,” she said. “It is exciting to recognize a volunteer whose work has touched so many lives.”

In her role at the University, Wilbanks directs all interactions with local, state and federal branches of government and coordinates official responses to proposed legislation, regulatory activities and any other government operations that pertain to the University. Outside of the University, Wilbanks has also worked with several community organizations, serving on the boards of Bank of Ann Arbor, Center for Michigan, Ann Arbor SPARK and Riverside Arts Center Foundation.

In the press release, Wilbanks said she was grateful for the acknowledgement of her work for the community, which she said has been an important part of her life.

“I am overwhelmed by this honor and recognition,” she said. “There is nothing more satisfying than giving back. It is particularly rewarding to work alongside so many dedicated volunteers who work tirelessly to create, support and strengthen the fabric and vitality of our community.”

The award is a part of Women United, a philopatric network of approximately 70,000 across the country. The Woman of the Year title was initiated in 2009, and winners have also included University President Emerita Mary Sue Coleman.

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