The Albert Kahn Legacy Foundation is a non-profit organization that was incorporated on May 14, 2020, to celebrate and preserve the legacy of Albert Kahn, often described as the foremost American industrial architect of the 20th century. His ideas and impact are still felt today.
The Foundation is governed by a diverse Board of Directors comprised of historians, preservationists, journalists, business leaders, architects, and other professionals. All have a love of Albert Kahn and the Detroit area and believe that both are interrelated and represent a legacy worthy of preserving.
The Foundation intends to collect, preserve, maintain, display, and make available to the public materials related to the life and work of Albert Kahn, so that researchers, students, historians and the general public will know and appreciate how his designs and ideas changed industrial America and helped make Detroit the manufacturing capital of the United States during the first half of the 20th century.
The Foundation celebrates the work of Albert Kahn and those that breathe new life into the heart of Detroit and around the world with their restoration and adaptive reuse of Albert Kahn Buildings. There are currently 65 Albert Kahn buildings on the National Register of Historic Places maintained by the United States’ National Park Service.
Meet Our Board
Heidi Pfannes, President
Chair, Executive Committee, and Communications and Membership Committee
Heidi is a founding member of the Albert Kahn Legacy Foundation. As an employee at Albert Kahn Associates since 2014, she has been instrumental in developing and growing the firm’s future business along with preserving its remarkable past. Before Kahn, Heidi’s career began as an interior designer and worked her way to corporate leadership as Director of Business Development and Marketing. Throughout her career, she has remained committed to civic roles at both board and committee levels, including Saline Area Schools Board of Education, Washtenaw County School Board Association, Michigan Association of School Boards, InForum, IIDA State Board, and CREW Detroit, among others.
Levi Smith, Vice President
Chair, Museum and Exhibits Committee, and Fundraising Committee
Levi has been advocating for the establishment of an Albert Kahn Museum for all to learn about Albert Kahn’s legacy. Founder of his own real estate firm, Levi has been active in the commercial real estate business and a licensed attorney for over four decades. He has championed multiple nonprofit organizations as a board member for Building Beds for Kids, Piast Institute, and Moies Chetim. As a graduate of Wayne State University Law School and Cranbrook Schools, Levi has well-established roots in the Detroit community.
John Gallagher, Secretary
Co-Chair, Tours and Education Committee
John is a veteran journalist and author who has published extensively on Detroit, including the books Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City, Yamasaki in Detroit: A Search for Serenity, and Revolution Detroit: Strategies for Urban Reinvention. Born in New York City, he attended DePaul University in Chicago and Columbia University in New York. Joining the Detroit Free Press in 1987 as the paper’s urban affairs and economic development writer, John became a leading interpreter of the saga of post-industrial cities and their recovery efforts. In 2017, he was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame. Now retired, John continues to write and speak about labor, economics, architecture, urban planning, and media.
Robert Sharrow, Treasurer
Chair, Finance Committee
Robb is Senior Vice President and Principal at Albert Kahn Associates, where he served previously as Director/Corporate Secretary. He continues to lead projects for the firm’s health care clients, including Henry Ford Healthcare System. Robb has led extensive health care facility projects in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, including twelve new or replacement hospital projects. He is Past President of the Prismatic Club of Detroit, Former Vice-Chair of the National Planetree Visionary Design Network, Founding Board member of the Grosse Pointe Park Tax Increment Finance Authority (TIFA), and he serves as Elder and Treasurer of Historic Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit.
Co-Chair, Tours and Education Committee
Barbara is active in the Detroit art and historical community, including her role as a docent at the Detroit Institute of Arts, creating new tours of the Detroit Public Library, and providing lectures. She is currently finishing a Masters in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University. In addition to journal publications on Detroit Jewish History, she is the co-author of The Detroit Public Library: An American Classic. Barbara has served on numerous nonprofit boards, including the Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation and the American Technion Society. Presently, she serves as the vice president of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan and on the Dimensions Advisory Board of the Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy Network.
John is a long-time mechanical engineer at Albert Kahn Associates. Formerly the Director of Mechanical Engineering, John has led complex projects for clients like FCA-Chrysler, Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford Hospital, General Motors, the Michigan Opera Theatre, and numerous clients out of state and country. He has served as the Detroit Chapter President of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and has been involved in the Engineering Society of Detroit. Over the last two decades, he has led historical tours for organizations such as Preservation Wayne, and the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, where he remains an active guide.
Aimee is an archivist at the Walter P. Reuther Library-Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University. Previously, she served as director of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan for almost a decade, where she edited the journal Michigan Jewish History and curated exhibits at the Detroit Historical Museum. Her publications include books and articles on Detroit history, Jewish history, and art history. She has served on the boards of Michigan Women Forward, Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame, Wayne State University Press, President’s Commission on the Status of Women at Wayne State University, Farmington/Farmington Hills Education Foundation and Farmington Hills Committee to Increase Voter Participation.
Chair, Grants Committee
Nancy was the executive director of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network for 17 years. In 2016, she was awarded the Community Economic Development Advocate of the Year award for her professional career working to form connections, secure resources, and provide an understanding of the value that healthy and historic neighborhoods bring to Michigan residents and the economy. She created the MHPN Tax Credit partnership program that has been instrumental in partnering on major Detroit projects. In addition to this foundation, Nancy is also involved with Preservation Action, the National Historic Preservation Advocacy Organization, and the National Preservation Partners Network.
Peter is the great-grandson of Albert Kahn and has a history of civic involvement in Detroit and beyond. Currently, he is a partner in Robinson/Jeffrey Associates, Inc., completing numerous investment banking assignments in the telecommunications industry, building off of a long career in the cable television industry. Additionally, Peter has focused on venture capital, investing, and becoming a Board member of several startups throughout the country. Within the Detroit community, he has served on various boards, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Birmingham Bloomfield Art Association, Gilda’s Club, Culture Source, Challenge Detroit, Cranbrook Schools, Cranbrook Art Academy, and the Cranbrook Educational Community.
Michael G. Smith
Michael is an architectural historian and author. In addition to several published articles on Detroit architecture, he authored Designing Detroit; Wirt Rowland and the rise of Modern American Architecture, an award-winning history of Detroit’s early 20th-century architectural achievements. Prior to 2010, he was self-employed as an executive recruiter, working with nonprofit organizations and corporations marketing business services. Early in his career, Michael worked in the printing and publishing industry.
Mike O. Smith
Mike is the Alene and Graham Landau Archivist Chair at the Detroit Jewish News Foundation. With 30 years as an archivist and historian, he has served as Director of the Walter Reuther Library and Director of the graduate program in Archival Administration, Wayne State University, and the Principal Archivist at the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. He has presented and published extensively on archival studies, Michigan history, Jewish Detroit History, the Labor movement, and the automotive industry. Mike has curated numerous exhibits, including the “Motor City Exhibition” and the “From Furs to Factories” at the Detroit Historical Museum, and most recently, “The Holocaust Unfolds” and “Aftermath” at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, MI.
Chair, Artifacts and Archives Committee
Caitlin is a writer and historian at Albert Kahn Associates, where she has been writing a book in honor of the firm’s 125th anniversary. For several years, she was the editor of academic journals specializing in museum, library, and archive theory and practice called The Museum Scholar and Theory and Practice. Previously, she worked in exhibition and collection management roles at the Brooklyn Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Cranbrook Art Museum. With degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Glasgow in Scotland, Caitlin has published articles on various museum topics and aspects of the history of Detroit architecture.