Wayne State University mourns the loss of businesswoman and philanthropist Florine Mark
The Wayne State University community is deeply saddened by the passing of Florine Mark, prominent Detroit leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Mark died on October 13, 2023, just one day after appearing in local media to plead for an end to violence in the Middle East.
Mark was an avid supporter of Wayne State and was well-known for her active role in Detroit’s economic and philanthropic communities. She has served on the boards of dozens of organizations including the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, United Jewish Foundation, Jewish Women's Foundation, Henry Ford Health System Foundation, Harvard Kennedy School Women's Leadership Board and many more.
She was a longtime and current member of the Board of Visitors for Wayne State's School of Medicine and the Mike Ilitch School of Business and had also served on the Board of Visitors for the College of Education. She was a member of the advisory board for the university’s HIGH Program, which aids students in need.
"It was an honor and a privilege to get to know Florine,” said Mike Ilitch School of Business Dean Virginia Kleist. “She was a tremendous woman with a passion for both business and volunteerism, and an energy that was infectious. Her passing is a great loss for us and for the entire metro Detroit community.”
From humble beginnings on Detroit’s west side to becoming one of the nation’s most prominent business leaders in an era where there were few models of women entrepreneurs, Mark opened a Weight Watchers franchise in Detroit in 1966. She went on to become the largest franchisee for the company, reaching 4,200 employees and opening locations in 14 states as well as Canada and Mexico. In 2021, she sold her franchise to Weight Watchers International and focused on volunteerism, philanthropy, media appearances and a celebrated podcast.
She was named the Ilitch School's Michigan Executive of the Year in 2008 and added to its Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hall of Fame in 2019. Wayne State also recognized Mark that year with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, celebrating her lifelong commitment to community health and business accomplishments.
Other awards and accolades include being the first woman inducted into the National Management Association’s Hall of Fame and being honored with the Entrepreneurial Visionary Award from the Women’s Business Center in Washington, D.C. She was awarded the William Davidson Lifetime Achievement Award, named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Detroit by Crain’s Detroit Business, named Michiganian of the Year by The Detroit News, and was the first woman to receive the Neal Shine Award for Exemplary Regional Leadership from the Detroit Free Press.
Mark once remarked that she set out to make each day as impactful as possible.
"I do not talk about years. I talk about days," Mark told the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan. "Each day is measured in what I can do and what I am grateful for."