Daniel Varner
Former Excellent Schools Detroit CEO To Lead Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit

Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit Welcomes New CEO Daniel Varner


DETROIT – November 10, 2016 – Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit today announced its Board of Directors has chosen a new Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Varner. Effective November 21, 2016, Varner will succeed current CEO Lorna Utley who is set to retire.

Joining Goodwill Detroit during the organization’s 96th year of putting people with employment challenges to work, Varner will be responsible for leading a team of more than 300 employees and overseeing all functions of the organization.

“Dan has an exceptionally strong background in finding and supporting the needs of the community; his passion is unmatched and is fully aligned with Goodwill’s mission,” said Jane Bowman, chairperson of Goodwill Detroit’s Board of Directors. “This made him a perfect candidate to lead our organization and build upon the tremendous success that we have enjoyed in serving the people and communities of Metro Detroit.”

Varner is coming to Goodwill Detroit from Excellent Schools Detroit, where he served as CEO of the nonprofit organization formed in 2010 with the goal of ensuring access to excellent education to all Detroit youth, from cradle to career. In this role, Varner was a national leader in organizing school, district and early childhood leaders to design and implement common activities – including the convening of the Detroit College Access Network – that have increased FAFSA completion rates by nearly 20 percent year over year. Varner also co-founded Think Detroit, a nonprofit organization that in seven years became the second largest youth recreation provider in the City of Detroit, delivering award winning programming to more than 5,000 youth annually.

“I’m excited to join the team during such a substantial year for the organization,” said Varner. “Over the past 95 years, Goodwill has served nearly 1 million clients and placed more than 90,000 individuals into jobs. Now that’s an initiative I want to be a part of! I’m looking forward to working with the people who have given their heart to metro-Detroiters and to bringing my passion and ideas to the organization.”

Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit operates Goodwill Automotive (a Tier 1 automotive supplier), Goodwill’s Green Works (an industrial recycling operation) and six retail locations in Canton, Dearborn, Commerce, Woodhaven, Livonia and Ypsilanti, in support of its mission work while providing funding, training and educational resources for the organization’s major programs and service initiatives, including:

  • Flip the Script: A self-empowerment program aimed at providing at-risk men and women with a “hand up” by erasing employment barriers through literacy, GED certification, financial literacy, transportation, job interviewing skills and training, life skills, nutrition and more.
  • Operation: Good Jobs: Provides veterans with employment training and opportunities as well as family strengthening services.
  • A Place of Our Own Clubhouse: Assists individuals with mental illness to function in their living, working and social environments.
  • Career Centers in Detroit, Novi & Highland: Provide job seekers with focused employment and career planning, skill assessment, career counseling and career development assistance.

“As my nine-year tenure with Goodwill Detroit comes to an end, I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work with this incredible team and lead efforts to accomplish the greater good for the people of the five county metro area around Detroit,” said Utley. “I’m excited to pass the baton to Dan and see where he takes the organization in the coming years. Given his experience and accomplishments, I am confident in his abilities to further strengthen Goodwill’s impact in the communities we are privileged to serve.”

Upon Varner’s joining Goodwill Detroit, Utley will retire from the organization and launch a new entrepreneurial joint venture. During her career with the organization, Goodwill Detroit re-entered the thrift store market in 2010, a decade after exiting it. Additionally, under her leadership, Goodwill Detroit created the Clean Downtown program as well as Goodwill Green Works, to manage industrial recycling for DTE Energy Co. In 2014, Utley was awarded the Matthews Entrepreneurial Award from Goodwill Industries International for demonstrating the entrepreneurial spirit in the development of new market revenues and jobs for the people Goodwill Detroit serves.


About Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit
The professionals of Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit are dedicated to assisting local residents to overcome employment challenges and secure meaningful, long-term employment. In the past year of the organization’s rich history, Goodwill Industries has placed nearly 2,000 Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents into new jobs and has provided job training, education and placement services to more than 12,000 individuals in the region. Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit has been helping Metro Detroiters become Trained, Trusted and Ready to Work for more than 95 years. For more information, visit www.goodwilldetroit.org.

Amanda Niswonger, for Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit
(313) 309-9531

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