Elected in 1990
“For outstanding contributions to automotive emission control, fuel economy, and safety engineering, and leading the integration of such developments.”
BY BETSY ANCKER-JOHNSON AND BRUCE MACDONALD
ROBERT C. STEMPEL, a brilliant engineer, a compassionate leader, and an innovative team builder who led General Motors Corporation through the tumultuous years of the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, died May 7, 2011, at the age of 77. He was the first engineer to lead General Motors when he succeeded Roger Smith as chairman and chief executive officer in 1990.
Bob, as he was generally called, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on July 15, 1933. His interest in automobiles went back to his high school days, when he began work as a mechanic in an automotive repair garage. While continuing to repair cars and trucks to help pay for his engineering training, he earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Wooster Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Fifteen years later, while working full time, he received an M.B.A. from Michigan State University. Upon graduating with his mechanical engineering degree, Bob was employed by the General Electric Corporation in its Wire & Cable Division. In January 1956 he began active service with the U.S. Army as a lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. He was part of the team that developed a mobile liquid oxygen generating unit to fuel liquid rockets.
Bob decided to become involved in the design and manufacture of vehicles—hence his decision in 1958 to join the Oldsmobile Division in Lansing, Michigan, in an entry-level engineering job. He was given increasing responsibilities as