BASF executive comes full circle with Tough Enough to be a Girl Scout award
Find out why business leader Denise Hartmann is tough enough.
BY ANNA SPIEWAK
Denise Hartmann grew up knowing no limit to her potential—not hindered by her gender nor her position in life—that’s how her parents had raised her.
“It wasn’t a question that I couldn’t do anything that I chose to do, as long as I was willing to work hard,” she said.
It is no wonder that at the tender age of 43, the Chemical Engineering graduate is already the Senior Vice President of Dispersions, Resins & Additives North America at the largest chemical company in the world—BASF. She is responsible for raw materials sold into the varied coatings industry based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But her achievements do not stop there. Aside from career success, Hartmann is involved with several philanthropic initiatives close to her heart—the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and other cancer-fighting-related causes.
It was for all of these efforts that the Michigan Technological University and University of Michigan graduate was presented with the Tough Enough to be a Girl Scout award at the event’s annual breakfast recently—and guess what—she is tough enough.
Hartmann was one of four women and one man recognized by the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (GSSEM) for exemplifying “The values of the Girl Scout promise and law through their work and community involvement,” according to the GSSEM statement.
Hartmann got deeply involved in cancer organizations after losing her father to prostate cancer 15 years ago. She recalls visiting her dad the night before he died at the hospital. She stopped by late after taking finals for her M.B.A. They were alone, and she made him a promise.
“I told him I would do everything I could to keep fighting against this disease, cancer in general, that I would continue to do my part,” she added.
The SVP indeed kept her word. She has run six full marathons, several half marathons, and many 5K walks, including the Susan G. Komen three-day for a Cure walk, and marches. Hartmann even climbed the tallest mountain in Africa—Mt. Kilimanjaro; and has raised more than $250,000 over the last 15 years.
“That’s when I feel closest to my dad (participating),” she added. “I promised him I’d keep fighting, and after I lost him the next day, I sought out ways over the years to intensify that commitment and to keep that promise.”
Battling cancer is very dear to Hartmann’s heart for more reasons than one. Hartmann’s husband, who also climbed Kilimanjaro with her, is a cancer survivor.
The married couple ascended the mountain in August of 2018 with a group of 14 hikers, raising $140,000 between the 14 of them for the LLS.
“It was wonderful,” said Hartmann. “I carried a picture of my parents on my backpack all the way to the summit, and I’d like to say it’s the closest I’d been to heaven with my feet still on the ground.”
Although LLS focuses on blood cancers per se, it is an organization very close to Hartmann’s heart because its work leads to other unique innovations for treatment and therapies for all types of cancer. “Blood is so readily available, it can be easily tested. Doing research on blood cancers has such an impact on the entire body,” said Hartmann, adding that she appreciates how LLS uses majority of its dollar straight for the cause and right to patient advocacy, support and research.
She even recently met an academic scientist who’s using a grant funded by LLS to use approved treatments for blood cancer and applying it to prostate cancer treatments in research, helping her come full circle with her father’s illness.
Hartmann said she and her sister consider themselves survivors—both losing their parents at a fairly young age (their mother died suddenly eight years ago). But resilience is just something that comes second nature to this BASF executive, who sees grief as something always present with a person— one just gets stronger in carrying it.
“People have told me in the past that my sister and I are both strong, that we stay positive—my response has been ‘well, what choice do I have?’ My parents did not raise me to not keep living. This is a way for me to keep them both really close, to do something with that grief.”
Just as Hartmann’s parents were big mentors to her growing up, so is she now a mentor to the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan.
“Anytime an adult is involved in a child’s life because they want to, because they recognize the value in supporting the next generation, it’s impactful for that kid,” Hartmann added.
And according to Marc Berke, Chief Development Officer at Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan, the organization could not have asked for a more perfect woman-in-STEM honoree than Hartmann.
“Denise checked off every box and so much more,” said Berke. “Her role at BASF is incredibly impressive alone. But well beyond that, her dedication to the philanthropic efforts she spearheads as well as her approach to work and home life left everyone at the event completely inspired.”
The award is given to a few business leaders who have shown through their careers that their values and ideals align with the Girl Scouts’ mission—GIRL of courage, confidence and character (GIRL- go getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader).
“These qualities revolve around BASF’s initiatives to encourage girl innovators and leaders to pursue careers in STEM and manufacturing,” said Marika Diamond, Head of Public Relations & Communications, Midwest Hub, BASF, who nominated Hartmann for the award.
“If young girls can see some of themselves in me, or look to me as any type of inspiration, I’m beyond humbled by that,” Hartmann concluded. “For young women entering the workplace—my advice is your power is your knowledge, your skills, your experiences and your voice is necessary.”
Denise Hartmann was recently promoted from Vice President to Senior Vice President, Business Management, Dispersions, Resins & Additives, BASF North America. As a result of the business consolidating into one location, she has moved from Southfield, Michigan to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she resides with her husband, Ian Crancer, and dog, Fletcher.