Harvard University

Gm Chair Rick Wagoner to Deliver Commencement Speech at His Alma Mater

In the news: Duke President Richard H. Brodhead has recently announced that G. Richard Wagoner Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the General Motors Corporation—world’s largest automaker and maker of the popular GM Seat Belt — will deliver a commencement address at the Duke University on May 13.

Chairman Wagoner is a 1975 alumna of Duke University and currently a member of the university’s board of trustees. Wagoner finished a bachelor’s degree in economics from Duke in 1975 and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University in 1977. In addition to being one of the Duke’s Board of Trustees, where he is a member of the board’s executive trusteeship and student affairs committees. Wagoner also serves on the Fuqua School of Business Board of Visitors at Duke and co-chair of Duke’s Financial Aid Initiative which is a continuing effort to raise $300 million in new endowment funds to strengthen the university’s financial aid programs.

Wagoner’s wife Kathy is also a Duke alumna. They have three sons, one of whom is Trip who graduated from Duke last May while their second son, Scott is now a Duke student. Most of the Rick Wagoner’s family starting with his dad, sister and brother-in-law has studied at Dukes University.

According to Brodhead, “I’m very grateful that Rick Wagoner has agreed to speak at our commencement. Like all our graduates, when he left Duke, Rick went off to see what he could make of the opportunities of his time. In the process, he became CEO in one of the America’s biggest and most challenging businesses and a leader whose strength and integrity are known throughout the world. He loves this university and has served it in thousand ways. He’ll be a great at helping our graduates look into their futures.”

Duke Senior Andrew Longenecker, who serves on this year’s commencement committee, said that he was overjoyed to learn that Wagoner would be speaking at the commencement. “Think he’ll give a great speech. I feel like he will impart a lot of knowledge and energy to the graduates.”

Rick Wagoner joined GM in the year 1977 as an analyst in the company’s New York treasurer’s office. After receiving several promotions there he was made to serve in leadership positions for GM in Switzerland, Brazil, and Canada. And then in 1992, he was promoted to executive vice president and chief financial officer with an added responsibility of worldwide purchasing in 1993. A year later he was again promoted as executive vice president of GM and President of North American Operations.

In 1998, Wagoner was elected president and chief operating officer then in June 2000 at the age of 47; he became the youngest CEO in GM’s history. He took the additional responsibilities of chairmanship on May 1, 2003.

And in addition to the very long list of Wagoner’s accomplishments, he is also a member of the board of trustees of Detroit Country Day School, the board of dean’s advisors of the Harvard Business School and the board of directors of Catalyst. He is the Chairman of the Society of Automotive Engineers “A World in Motion” Executive Committee and a member of the Detroit Renaissance Executive Committee, The Business Council and The Business Roundtable.