Class of ’22 Alumni Spirit honorees: Marlena Peleo-Lazar ’72 — award-winning ad creator

Each year, University of Detroit Mercy chooses an alumnus from each of its Colleges or Schools to honor as someone who has excelled in his or her profession, demonstrated outstanding leadership in work and devoted himself or herself in service to the larger community. Award recipients reflect the University’s mission of excellence and service and bring pride to their alma mater. This year, the University will celebrate seven honorees at a special ceremony Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Ballroom of the Student Union on the McNichols Campus. If you are interested in attending the event, you can purchase tickets at

This year, the College of Liberal Arts & Education will honor Marlena Peleo-Lazar ’72, chief creative officer (Ret.), McDonald’s Corporation.

Marlena Peleo-LazarA native Detroiter, Peleo-Lazar graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Media Studies. She started her career in Chicago working for two legendary ad agencies — Leo Burnett and Ogilvy & Mather — where she led creative advertising for several world-class brands.  

It was at McDonald’s Corporation where she was the architect of a three-word global advertising campaign that captured the imagination of the world: “I’m lovin’ it.” McDonald’s and customers around the world loved it, too, and it remains the most award-winning and business-building campaign in the fast food giant’s history. 

Peleo-Lazar also puts her skills to good use promoting good causes such as Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Institute for Therapy through the Arts and The Auditorium Theatre of Chicago among many others. She also shares her expertise as a speaker and contributor to several colleges and universities, including Detroit Mercy, where she is a member of the committee raising funds for a new center for Communications Studies. 

Recipient of numerous creative awards, Peleo-Lazar has also been honored as Chicago Ad Woman of the Year, Illinois Business Person of the Year, Internationalist of the Year and a McDonald’s Leadership Award. But she is most proud of her family and the two sons who keep her young. 

Other honorees this year are:

College of Health Professions — Linda Walton Little ’97, president and CEO, Neighborhood Service Organization
College of Business Administration — John C. Donnelly ’72, consulting director, Donnelly Penman & Partners
College of Engineering & ScienceRose A. Ryntz, Ph.D. ’83, president, Ryntz & Associates, LLC
School of Dentistry — Cheri S. Newman ’89, ’90, ’98, adjunct professor (Ret.) Detroit Mercy Dental
School of Architecture & Community Design — Craig L. Wilkins ’85, senior lecturer of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan
School of Law — Patricia D. Kennedy-Scott ’78, regional president (Ret.), Kaiser Foundation Health of Ohio


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