James E.A. John

President 1991-2005

In 1991, Kettering was a different campus with a different name. Former Trustee Ed Harris likes to call it the years when GMI "was still a school run by a factory." Then began the 14-year tenure of President James E.A. John. 

Born November 6, 1933 in Montreal, Quebec, James E.A. John graduated from Princeton University, received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland and spent his career in engineering education. Previous to becoming President of Kettering University, he was Chairman of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toledo, Chairman of Mechanical Engineering at The Ohio State University and Dean of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

In 1991, Kettering University was a different campus with a different name. A crumbling parking ramp dominated the horizon and peeling paint abounded. Former Trustee Ed Harris likes to call it the years when GMI "was still a school run by a factory."

Then began the 14-year tenure of President James E.A. John.

"The enhancement of the campus during Dr. John's presidency is a great tribute to his broad vision and outstanding skills," Harris said. "Early emphasis on recreation and housing facilities for students set the tone for his administration. With a staff focused on fundraising and alumni development, and a faculty continuing to produce academic excellence, Dr. John truly created a balanced approach to governing."

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, John Lorenz, likened his arrival to a famous Charles Kettering quote: think more about the future than the past, because that's where you're going to spend the rest of your life. "It's apparent that Dr. John, like Charles Kettering, preferred to think about the future of the school rather than dwell on its past," Lorenz said.

Lorenz described President John's legacy as "the building president" at Kettering University. Under his leadership, the campus experienced:

  • The construction of the new Recreation Center, which is named in honor of him and his wife, Connie
  • The construction of the C.S. Mott Engineering and Science Center, which houses the Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering programs
  • The construction of Campus Village Apartments which provide on-campus housing for upperclassman
  • New athletic playing fields
  • The McKeachie Pavilion for student activities
  • The air conditioning of the Residence Hall

In addition, he supported:

  • The establishment of Kettering's Center of Excellence in Fuel Cell Technology
  • The automotive CRASH Lab
  • The Bosch Automotive Electronic Systems Laboratory
  • The Ford Design Simulation Studio
  • The PACE Lab for e-design and e-manufacturing
  • The establishment of a research park adjacent to campus

Also, during his presidency:

  • The number of undergraduate and graduate degree programs increased.
  • A curriculum reform effort was completed at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. 
  • International student exchange programs were established with six different countries.
  • Articulation agreements were established with community colleges.
  • The number of companies employing Kettering co-op students was expanded to include more than 700 corporate sites.
  • The retention rates and graduation rates for both women and under-represented minorities increased.

But, the most profound change for which Jim will be remembered, Lorenz said, "occurred on January 1, 1998, when the school changed its name from GMI Engineering & Management Institute to Kettering University. And, while most of the attention at the time was focused on the change from 'GMI' to 'Kettering,' I believe that history will prove that the change from 'Engineering & Management Institute' to 'University' will be far more significant," Lorenz concluded.

Dr. John died Nov. 28, 2010, at his home in Ohio.

Dr. James E.A. John

Dr. James E.A. John