Skip Navigation
Print Share

Max M. Fisher Award for Outstanding Philanthropist

Bobbie and Stephen Polk

Polks Headshot

Bobbie and Stephen Polk will be presented with the MAX M. FISHER AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING PHILANTHROPIST.

Bobbi and Stephen Polk have a distinguished history of service and philanthropy.  While many Metro Detroit institutions benefit from their generous support and involvement, the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) and Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) are especially honored to join in nominating them for the Max M. Fisher Award for Outstanding Philanthropist, and in celebrating their contributions to our community. 

The Polks are most deserving of this distinction, both for their extraordinary philanthropic investments and their invaluable service that ensures a strong artistic, cultural and educational core for our region.  The family’s legacy of generosity crosses generations; Stephen’s parents, Ralph and Winifred Polk, are fondly remembered for their philanthropic support and its lasting impact on many organizations and the individuals they serve. 

Continuing the family tradition, Bobbi and Stephen Polk have been active leaders with the DSO for more than 30 years, and have given to the Orchestra’s Annual Fund for a remarkable 32 consecutive years.  In addition, Stephen has served as a member of the DSO Board of Directors since 1994.  He was part of the effort to resolve the prolonged musician labor dispute in 2010-2011 and subsequently helped to catapult the DSO into a new era of increased accessibility through community outreach, neighborhood residencies and the Live from Orchestra Hall free webcasts.

Stephen and Bobbi have also “gone the extra mile” in serving the Detroit Zoological Society.  In order to help create an authentic and stimulating habitat for penguins, the Polks traveled to Antarctica with DZS Executive Director/CEO Ron Kagan and other Zoo leaders.  They returned with stunning photographs and a great appreciation for this ever-changing environment that inspired a team of architects to design the largest and most spectacular penguin habitat in the world. 

The Polks played a critical role in making these plans a reality with a commitment of $10 million – the largest individual donation in the Zoo’s history.  In his role as Chair of the Building Committee, Stephen also helped oversee the construction of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, which opened in April 2016 and is driving record attendance and membership.  Stephen has served on the DZS Board of Directors since 1989, and in addition to leading the Building Committee, he is Vice Chair of the Executive Committee and a member of both the Development and Science Committees.

Bobbi is well known for her commitment to causes that benefit children and those supporting historical endeavors.  She is a trustee of the Detroit Historical Society, a founding member of Women United and a member of the Sunset at the Zoo Leadership Committee.  For the past several years, Bobbi and Stephen together have served as co-chairs of the North American International Auto Show Charity Preview representing Judson Center.  Stephen has also served as a trustee of Beaumont Health System, College for Creative Studies, Cranbrook Educational Community, Leader Dogs for the Blind and The Parade Company. 

True champions of our community, the Polks’ philanthropy and service have benefitted thousands of individuals, young and old, who turn to these vital community organizations for education, health care, creative expression and enrichment through arts and culture.  Stephen and Bobbi recently established The Polk Family Endowed Chair in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Beaumont Health and have been recognized as members of the distinguished Cranbrook Community Founders’ Society.  

Perhaps most impressive of all is the humility and kind heartedness with which they approach each endeavor, and every interaction with others.  With gratitude and admiration, the Detroit Zoological Society and Detroit Symphony Orchestra are honored to celebrate Bobbi and Stephen Polk’s selection for the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Award for Outstanding Philanthropist.