On Sunday evening May 4th, 2014, Gary Torgow served as General Chairman of the largest sit down dinner in America, the famed NAACP dinner in Detroit, Michigan. According to NAACP President, Dr. Wendell Anthony, "Gary was chosen to serve as Chairman because of his standing in the community as one of the most respected leaders both in business and community service. Mr. Torgow is a great humanitarian- giving of himself to so many who seek his help and counsel. Although a leader of industry, Gary has maintained a deep devotion to his religion and to strong principles of faith".
Throughout his career, Gary has kept a low profile, yet still finds ways to be an impactful leader, mostly through behind the scenes activities. A case in point, although serving as Chairman of a public company (Talmer Bank and Trust), he has chosen to let others share the public spotlight being very comfortable not being the public face of the company.
Gary has served on a number of important civic and communal boards including The Detroit Medical Center, the Knight Foundation, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Detroit Renaissance, and the Detroit Urban League. He was recently elected to sit on the board of Business Leaders Of Michigan, which is made up of the CEOs and Chairmans of Michigan’s leading corporations and companies.
Although recruited to run for public office, both statewide and federally, Mr. Torgow consistently declined any effort to achieve elected status. He has instead preferred to devote himself to private efforts to improve and uplift community causes and individuals.
Gary was appointed by Michigan Governor John Engler (Republican) to serve on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, where he was elected by his colleagues to its Chairmanship in his third year on the commission. The Civil Rights Commission is a state constitutionally mandated judicial body that adjudicates civil rights claims brought to the courts by Michigan citizens. During Mr. Torgow’s tenure as Chairman, the Department of Civil Rights, at his urging, eliminated a backlog of cases, through a new and innovative process of expediting cases through the system. This effort by Mr. Torgow and the department leadership allowed claimants to have their cases analyzed and adjudicated with much greater speed and efficiency. Another innovation during Mr. Torgow’s time on the commission was to hold court hearings in venues throughout the state, as opposed to just Lansing and Detroit. This permitted citizens all around Michigan to address the commission and to share their views on the state of civil rights in their jurisdictions.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was created by constitutional authority in 1963. Civil Rights can be defined as federal, state, and local laws designed to protect individuals from discriminatory treatment. By the Constitutional Convention of 1962 the State recognized that there was a need for comprehensive civil rights protection for the citizens of Michigan. The result was the creation of an eight-member non-partisan Michigan Civil Rights Commission. In accordance with the Michigan Constitution, Commission members are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the senate and serve 4-year terms.
The history of the Unites States is replete with leaders who have devoted themselves to the cause of bringing all citizens together under one large tent. Mr. Torgow has been one of those individuals who has given of his times and talents to bring people together in all areas of community and business activity. Mr. Torgow was invited by the late civil rights icon Rosa Parks to give the keynote address at the Pathways to Freedom celebration, where he underscored how important it is for all communities to come together to support and strengthen each other.
ABOUT: Torgow serves as the chairman of Talmer Bancorp, Inc., the third largest bank in Michigan. In addition, Mr. Torgow is the founder and president of the Sterling Group, a respected business enterprise involved in real estate and business activities. Mr. Torgow is also a board member of Jackson National Life Insurance Company in New York, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Henry Ford Hospital foundation boards. Gary Torgow also serves on the board of First Place Bank of Ohio, The Detroit Metro Convention Bureau, The Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan, and Touro College of New York.