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Powerful Women: Let's Talk - 054: Michelle Rabideau

Michell Rabideau
Michelle Rabideau

She's a national leader in philanthropy raising over 100 million dollars for various organizations over 25 years. Michelle Rabideau is the President of St Mary's Foundation and serves on many local boards. No doubt she's passionate about health care, empowering women, community service, and more.

Powerful Women: Let’s Talk is created by WGVU NPR and made possible by WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at wgvu.org/donate to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Powerful Women: Let’s Talk.

Full Transcript:


Produced by women about women. Powerful women, Let's talk is a series of interviews with women who are trailblazers and have helped shape our world transforming who we are and how we live.


Shelley Irwin: She's a national leader in philanthropy raising over 100 million dollars for various organizations for some 25 years. Michelle Rabideau is the president of Saint Mary's Foundation serves on many local boards. Yes, multiple awards on her mantle. No doubt she's passionate about health care, empowering women, community service and more so welcome Michelle to this edition of Powerful women, Let's talk.

Michelle Rabideau: Let's talk I Love it Shelley. Let's do it.

Shelley Irwin: So all this great Michigan work you do. But you say you are a California girl.

Michelle Rabideau: Oh, good grief. I am. I was born and raised. And so I feel really strongly about my California roots but pure Michigan rocks as far as raising a family, living, being a community trustee. I have the best of both worlds. I've got my California roots. But now I've got Michigan in my family as well.

Shelley Irwin: How did you get to Michigan?

Michelle Rabideau: It's a convoluted story and really we don't have time. But let's just say I moved with family and ended up in Michigan where my step dad and mom were and I've been calling it home since 1990.

Shelley Irwin: What has been the career journey basically to Saint Mary's Foundation where I understand 20 years this month. There's a party somewhere.

Michelle Rabideau: There is going to be a party because it is worth celebrating. I really believe that this has been my calling and it's been a journey. You know, you don't necessarily go into a job of philanthropy. It kind of falls into you. I was somebody that was always involved. Always volunteering, always raising money in high school, college. And so for me to figure out that it could be a career. It just started happening through connections people, relationships and then to get it in health care. Sidebar, I was pre-med so I always had an interest in health care. But thankfully I'm not doing brain surgery, but I am really developing those relationships with people.

Shelley Irwin: Raising the funds to do the brain surgery’s

Michelle Rabideau: Yes, exactly.

Shelley Irwin: So was there a degree? An advanced degree in this field.

Michelle Rabideau: I did get my master’s in public administration when I was really into kind of that. The impetus of this was that my mom was diagnosed with cancer and I took off time to take care of her. And it was really during those 4 months that I started to think about what is my life calling. What does this look like. And I was actually getting an MBA starting to work on an MBA here at Grand Valley State University and switched to a master’s in public administration. It really sparked my interest in furthering a career in philanthropy

Shelley Irwin: What’s it take, just an off the cuff question, to be good at what you do because you have to ask for money.

Michelle Rabideau: You do. You do. And I know people are like, oh, I could never do that. It's really about listening and understanding what people are passionate about. And when you take the time to hear their story and then match it up with the needs of an organization that's when the magic happens.

Shelley Irwin: How did 20 years come so quickly.

Michelle Rabideau: I have no idea! it's been a ride. It's been fun. It's just been happening and I have had people say to me, well, what are you going to do next. And like what do you mean what am I going to do next. I’m going to keep doing what I love doing. And, you know, we've got a good friend mutually Shannon Cohen. She says that when you look at the intersection of joy and purpose. That's like the sweet spot. And that's what I've got in my job at Saint Mary's. I've got joy, I've got purpose. That's a calling.

Shelley Irwin: Yes. Thank goodness you weren’t a brain surgeon.

Michelle Rabideau: Yeah.

Shelley Irwin: You learned in the last 5 years that you are of Mexican descent, which tell me about this

M: That's a wild one. Boy. So I'm adopted and my family has always been my family. I've never had any questions about that. But I was curious and kind of questioning my ethnicity growing up and for a variety of reasons. And the bottom line is about 5 years ago I took the DNA test and sure enough found out that I'm about half Mexican and Spanish and have connected recently with my bio father. Who has really been helping me learn about that Mexican heritage and embracing that culture and I'm still on that journey Shelley, but I'm starting to really embrace that identity and what that means. So I'm still trying to figure it out.

Shelley Irwin: What does that mean? Say to your boys, your natural boys. Now they're learning of their history.

Michelle Rabideau: They are and I think they're just kind of eager to watch me take the first steps and figure it out. They weren't surprised. So it's kind of interesting that going through this as a family. They want to learn. But they really are like mom, this is your journey and we're along for the ride with you.

Shelley Irwin: Do you recommend others learn their background.

Michelle Rabideau: Oh, heck Yeah. Why not. There's so many you know, I think back at what was in my baby book, you know, and said I was French English Irish polish.

Shelley Irwin: And you know just the cutest little baby ever

Michelle Rabideau: Oh, of course, and of course. And so I just you know, you just kind of go with that and what people are really uncovering when they do, you know, ancestry or 23 and me is that there are a lot of surprises in who they really are and what their ethnicity is. So I say go for it and be ready for whatever you discover.

Shelley Irwin: And as you mentioned that journey continues. Do you learn of your Mexican culture even more.

Michelle Rabideau: That's been what I've been trying to do and I've reached out to even friends here in our community to try to learn a little bit more. I'm reading. I'm talking to my bio dad to just learn about what was it like being raised as a Mexican American. And that's, you know, kind of a challenge for me because I didn't grow up with that. And so for me to now start to identify more with that ethnicity and culture. It's a little bit of a striking a balance.

Shelley Irwin: How do you balance all the local boards you are on with your service. How do you make time and focus?

Michelle Rabideau: Intention. I mean, I really you know, I’m very intentional about my time who I spend it with. What I do with that time. And that includes boards. I don't say yes to everything. I feel really strongly about empowering women, public education, health care. And so those are the things I'm going to focus on doesn't mean there's so many other great things in this community to get involved with. But I'm not going to say yes to everything I’m going to say yes to things that I have intention on

Shelley Irwin: Like this powerful woman, Let's talk podcast.

Michelle Rabideau: Hey there

Shelley Irwin: Thank you for that. You have many well-deserved awards. Does anyone in particular award catch you off guard? That's a compliment.

Michelle Rabideau: Wow, thank you. Nothing caught me off guard. But I will tell you one that was especially special to me and they all were in honor in and really a celebration of not just what I do but what I do with others. But getting the tribute award, the YWCA tribute award. I was nominated by my life coach Deb Bailey. And so to read her nomination after years and years of mentorship and coaching and really a friendship. She was a dear friend to me and I miss her every day. But I know she is with me in spirit that award really touched my heart.

Shelley Irwin: Do you recommend we have a life coach.

Michelle Rabideau: Yeah, Oprah has one. So why not. I think everybody needs a life coach, definitely

Shelley Irwin: Check that off the list.

Michelle Rabideau: Okay.

Shelley Irwin: All right. Grade the next generation females when it comes to leadership and building each other up. How our younger gals doing?

Michelle Rabideau: I think they're doing better than we did. I really do. They have stronger voices. They take charge. They are all about lifting each other up empowering each other. The support is incredible. You see it in the world of sports, gymnastics and how everybody has rallying around each other. I didn't see that as much earlier in my career. And so I give them a really high grade and I surround myself by that next generation because it empowers me and helps me grow

Shelley Irwin: All right. We talked about you being a California girl and you say that being a Libra explains you in a nutshell. Give us an example.

Michelle Rabideau: Gosh. All right. A Libra is scales. It's all about balance and I am that peacemaker in the family and the harmony seeker. It's like, you know, peace love, I’m really probably a 60's gal. I was born in 1967 so I think that was like the summer of love like that's me. Libras love. They love relationships, they love people, they love beauty. And so that's around art, music, nature. It's just honestly, if you read about a Libra, it's me to a T.

Shelley Irwin: Friendships expand on the importance. We are Kappa Delta sisters

Michelle Rabideau: Heck we are

Shelley Irwin: We are an unspoken bond that lasts for life. You continuing to share your time talents and treasures go Illini

Michelle Rabideau: YOU are the Hoosier

Shelley Irwin: Again, our friendship came together because of that choice we made in in college. Can you expand on that.

Michelle Rabideau: You know, I have a saying and quite a few of us do if not for Kappa Delta. I had an extraordinary college experience with my sorority and I'm still having an extraordinary experience and I'm involved serve as vice chair of the National Kappa Delta Foundation board and my husband has even said, you know, the friendships that you formed in your college years and beyond as volunteer for national Kappa Delta. He's like those are the friendships Michelle that I look at as the ones that you continue to keep. I was just with my college girlfriend's 2 weeks ago.

Shelley Irwin: What happens there. Stays there.

Michelle Rabideau: Totally. A lot to reminisce scene and remembering who did what. And it was just a riot. But if not for Kappa Delta, I had a great experience and I attribute a lot of that experience to even some of the skills I have today in strategic planning, community, being a good community trustee. But most importantly, I think it's the furtherance the strengthening of friendships lifelong.

Shelley Irwin: What else is still on your bucket list. And let me rephrase this, did covid change any way of thinking of being of planning.

Michelle Rabideau: You know, I don't know if I've ever really had a bucket last unless it involved Kentucky Fried chicken. Okay, which I haven't had in years. I don't know why I said that, anyway. So I would say that covid really I think put the spotlight on how I've always chosen to live my life. And that is, again with that intention who I want to be with, who I want to spend my time with, how I want to spend it. It really just put the spotlight on that. And I love that others have around me. See it that way too and are choosing to live their life that way.

Shelley Irwin: What’s your motivational motto?

Michelle Rabideau: Do what you love and love what you do. It's simple. It's cliche, but it's the life is good motto. That's their company motto. And I choose to take that on every day.

Shelley Irwin: Back to work you go as president of Saint Mary's Foundation for at least the next 20 years. Thank you, Michelle, for this conversation.

Michelle Rabideau: Thank you, Shelly.

Shelley Irwin: And this wraps up this edition of our powerful women, Let's talk. I’m Shelley Irwin


>> Produced by women about women. These powerful podcast focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are and how we live. Want to hear more powerful women. Let's talk additional interviews at wgvu.org or wherever you get your podcast, please rate and subscribe. Powerful women, Let's talk is produced by WGVU at the MEIJER public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU. Its underwriters are Grand Valley State University.


Shelley Irwin is the host and producer for The Shelley Irwin Show, a news magazine talk-show format on the local NPR affiliate Monday through Friday. The show, broadcast at 9 a.m., features a wide variety of local and national news makers, plus special features.
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