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Murals by Detroit Artists Aim to Inspire Students at the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University

Misb Mural Ndubisi
Misb Mural Sw Freddy
Misb Murals Zmeers
Misb Mural East Stairwell

Colorful murals created to uplift and inspire students stand in the backdrop of two busy stairwells at the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University.

The paintings, produced by four Detroit-based artists, transpired after Mike Ilitch School of Business Dean Bob Forsythe visited local corporate offices with original murals and observed how thoughtful artwork could make a stark environment livelier.

Cass Tech alumnus and Merit Goodness creative director Ndubisi Okoye was among the artists selected by WSU to paint murals before students started the inaugural semester at the state-of-the-art facility. The business school, made possible by a historic $40 million donation from Mike and Marian Ilitch, debuted in August 2018 along Woodward Avenue.

“I thought it was cool. I didn’t know that I would be featured along with other Detroit-based artists,” said Okoye, who earned a B.A. degree from the College for Creative Studies. “It was amazing, honestly.”

Relying on some thematic guidance from WSU, Okoye used himself as a muse in his mural. The painting features a bearded young Black man visualizing caps and gowns below the phrase, “Rise to Leadership.”

Okoye said the mural features flowers, geometric shapes, bold colors and an Afrocentric theme—a signature of his work. “The guy in the picture is basking in the moment. The clouds around him represent the opportunities available to him, thanks to his graduation. Everything had a double meaning,” he said.

Other featured artists include local urban planner Zak Meers, figurative artist Tylonn J. Sawyer and Freddy Diaz, also known as “Southwest Freddy.” Forsythe said Diaz’s mural is particularly impactful because it is the first mural most people see at the school. 

Forsythe and his wife, Pat, partially funded the mural project, which led to WSU hiring mural project manager 1xRUN, led by COO Roula David. The company, a self-described fine art publisher and original art destination, has been instrumental in supporting public art initiatives with government and business entities throughout Detroit, including Eastern Market.

In addition to the four murals, Detroit-based sign painter Kelly Golden painted two text treatments, "Warriors Mean Business" and words from the university’s seal, "Industry Intelligence and Integrity,” inside the main stairwell of the four-story building.

About the Mike Ilitch School of Business

The Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business prepares students for challenging and rewarding careers, advances the boundaries of scholarly and practitioner knowledge, and enhances the economic vitality of the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and beyond through its programs, research and community engagement. Established in 1946, the business school was renamed in 2015 in recognition of a $40 million gift from Mike and Marian Ilitch. Thanks to this lead investment, the school moved to a new state-of-the-art building in the heart of the District Detroit in 2018, and academic programming and collaboration with city businesses are expanding. For more information, visit

About The District Detroit   

The District Detroit is a dynamic urban destination in the heart of Detroit. One that includes something for everyone—a dense neighborhood experience with a variety of developments alongside Detroit’s premier sports and entertainment venues. Connecting downtown Detroit to growing nearby neighborhoods such as Midtown, Corktown and Brush Park, The District Detroit is having a dramatic economic impact on Detroit and is a driving catalyst of the city’s remarkable resurgence. The District Detroit represents $1.4 billion in new investment to Detroit including the new Little Caesars Arena, Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University and Little Caesars world headquarters campus.