The institution was founded in 1919 as The School of Automobile Trades and opened under the direction of Albert Sobey to train engineering and management personnel. In 1923, the school became the Flint Institute of Technology offering a four-year cooperative education program, and enrolling more than 600 students. Recognizing the potential of cooperative education, the General Motors Corporation took over financial support of the school in 1926, renamed it General Motors Institute, and started utilizing the facility to develop its own engineers and managers. In 1945, the Institute added a fifth-year thesis requirement and became a degree-granting college with a continuing commitment to cooperative education.
Independence came in 1982 as GM divested itself of ownership. With independence came another name change - to GMI Engineering & Management Institute. Administrators decided to keep the proven cooperative education program and expand the number of employers. Also in 1982, the institution began offering graduate programs to on- and off-campus students.
On January 1, 1998, GMI changed its name to honor the man who not only helped found this institution, but also had a strong influence in the concept of professional cooperative education -- inventor and industrialist, Charles Kettering. Kettering (1876-1958) liked to say, "Do the right thing at the right time." What began as a night school for engineers, managers, designers and technicians has grown into today's world-class Kettering University with co-op employers in the automotive industry, delivery services, aerospace, paper products, banking, metallurgical, health care and more. As Kettering University, the school continues its historic role of educating leaders for the businesses and industries of the world.