By Patricia Mroczek
Dr. James E.A. John, who served as the fifth president of Kettering University from 1991-2005, died Nov. 28, 2010, at his home in Ohio with his family present.
It was the sad duty of current President Stan Liberty to break the news to the campus, even though it offered an opportunity to reminisce about John’s many accomplishments.
“We were so happy to see him in September when he came to campus to attend the President’s Appreciation Dinner,” Liberty said. “It was good to see him again. Jim had been battling a fast-growing melanoma. He was an important person in the development of this campus. His leadership will be felt for a long time.”
Dr. John, 77, came to campus in 1991 to lead GMI Engineering & Management Institute, which had been wholly owned by General Motors and taken private nine years earlier. At the time, the campus had three buildings and was bounded by aging manufacturing and retail facilities, Liberty said.
John created a master plan that included the construction of the Connie and Jim John Recreation Center, the C.S. Mott Engineering and Science Center, Campus Village Student Apartments and the Harris Playing Fields with the Miller Golf Green. He also oversaw land donations by Delphi and General Motors for a research park and campus upgrades that included the addition of air conditioning in the residence hall.
“He was a great leader and will be very much missed by all those who knew him,” said Dr. Tony Hain, associate provost of Graduate Studies, Continuing Education and Sponsored Research. “I respect and admire all the wonderful things he did for our University and for me personally.”
It was Dr. John who led the campus through its name change to Kettering University in 1998. He personally negotiated the name change with the Kettering family and then worked with the hundreds of companies sponsoring cooperative education students at the time.
He was a strong advocate for more research opportunities and established the concept of centers of excellence to bring more financial support to the University. In his final years, he made significant contributions to a capital campaign that topped $100 million and increased the endowment at that time from $9 million to $45 million.
After his retirement in 2005, and until his death, Dr. John continued to promote cooperative education as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Commission for Cooperative Education.
His family hosted a Celebration of Life Memorial in Ohio on Jan. 22. Memorials to remember Dr. John can be sent to University Advancement, 4th floor Campus Center, 1700 University Avenue, Flint, Mich., 48504. Checks should be made payable to Kettering University and can be directed to the Connie John Memorial Scholarship or the Dr. James E.A. John Endowed Scholarship. Questions related to memorials can be directed to Diane Emery in University Advancement at (810) 762-9863.
“I ask you to keep his family, and all who knew him, in your thoughts and prayers,” Liberty added.