The Cowing Era

Guy R. CowingGuy R. Cowing was born in Charlotte, Michigan, on June 22, 1895. The family moved to Flint in 1900 where Cowing’s father had accepted a position as assistant cashier of the Genesee Merchants Bank and Trust Company.

Cowing graduated from the old Flint High School in 1913 and completed a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan in 1917. Following college, Cowing worked for the Illinois Bell Telephone Company in Chicago.

During the World War I, Cowing served his country in the Army from 1917 to 1919. He was an instructor in the Army’s radio schools in Washington, D.C., Maryland State Agricultural College and Columbia University. He was a company commander in the signal Corps when he left the service and returned to Flint where he was briefly employed by Chevrolet before entering the educational field.

In 1920, Cowing was hired by Albert Sobey and in 1926 was designated assistant director of the School of Automotive Trades.

The Cowing Era – 1950 to 1960: In 1949, the Founding President of GMI, Albert Sobey, became ill and Mr. Cowing took on increasing responsibility.  He became President of GMI in 1950.  From the very beginning of his presidency, he reaffirmed and invigorated programs and services to the divisions of General Motors Institute.

Cowing was committed to the basic concepts on which GMI was founded and believed in the essential contribution of General Motors to the economy and to the American way of life.

Throughout his career as teacher and Institute president, Guy R. Cowing was held in high esteem in the educational world. He frequently was called upon to address groups in engineering education and in the field of cooperative education. He was a member of the American Society of Engineering Education.

In 1956, the GMI Interfraternity Council established the Guy R. Cowing Trophy in his honor. It is still awarded annually to the GMI fraternity or sorority selected as performing the greatest public service in the community.

Three years after his retirement, Cowing died at his winter home in Mesa, Arizona. Commenting on his death The Flint Journal expressed the thoughts of his many students, friends and neighbors.

“His vision, enthusiasm and leadership contributed much to the development of the institution that produces top-flight automotive executives…

No greater monument could be erected in his honor than the institution he helped found and build at Chevrolet and Third Avenues. But his most significant contribution to the community is not of bricks and mortar but of hearts and minds – those of today’s industrial and civic leaders whose lives were influenced by his teachings.”                

By Richard Scharchburg and University Sources