VanSlyke ' 71 returns to campus to direct alumni office

Apr 5, 2002

Mike VanSlyke had always planned on a second career that would somehow support his home town of Flint once his successful run of 36 years at General Motors came to close.

Mike VanSlyke had always planned on a second career that would somehow support his home town of Flint once his successful run of 36 years at General Motors came to close.

"My family was one of the first families in Flint," explained the soft-spoken associate vice president of Kettering's Alumni Affairs Office, recently hired after an exhaustive search. "In fact, one of my relatives, Asa VanSlyke, was Flint's first constable after the city became incorporated as a fur trading center. So a tremendous amount of my family history is rooted in this town."

The importance of history is close to VanSlyke's heart when he considers how his life has come full circle since graduating from Kettering in 1971 with a degree in Industrial Engineering. As a co-op student with GM from 1965 to 1971, and as a manufacturing engineer with the company until April of 2002, his career represents the achievement of a third generation GM employee.

VanSlyke's father, Wayne, worked for GM for more than 42 years and encouraged him to attend GMI because of the school's preeminent cooperative education program. And since the school was located in his backyard, this made GMI even more attractive to VanSlyke.

"I grew up in Flint and benefited from a great many youth programs in the community, most of which were supported by the Mott Foundation," he said. "So going to Kettering/GMI and receiving a job in my field of study that could help off set the costs of attending college made perfect sense. The co-op program was perfect for me."

"I had always planned that once I retired from GM, I wanted to come back to Flint and give something back to this community. It was a great place to grow up and I have many great feelings about it today. So when GM offered an attractive early retirement program, I took the opportunity and luckily this position opened up, which allowed me a wonderful opportunity to not just give back to my community, but to give back to the school that launched my career."

His career at GM included a number of assignments for the automaker. From 1989 to 1990, VanSlyke was a technical liaison to Isuzu, a Japanese automaker. He also served as plant manager of the GM Powertrain Fredricksburg, Va., facility. In addition, in the mid-1990s, he was one of the first program managers in the GM Powertrain Division working on an international four-cylinder program that involved a number of international and U.S.engineering groups, plants and employees.

Most recently, he worked as a program manager at the GM Powertrain headquarters in Auburn Hills. But in all his years with GM and working overseas for the company, his alma mater and the Flint area remained in his thoughts.

"I was president of the Kettering/GMI Alumni Chapter here in Flint and a member of the planning committee for the alumni golf outing in the mid-1980s," he said. "And I knew Jack Hartzell well, having worked with him when he was at Buick and of course during alumni events. We became good friends. He was a wonderful guy and I look forward to stepping in and further developing the alumni program just as he did many years ago."

VanSlyke lives with Ellen, his wife of 32 years, in Holly, Mich. They have two adult children: Noel, who is 25 and lives in the area, and Peter, who is 27 and lives in Florida. He also has one granddaughter. Some of VanSlyke's hobbies include golf, cooking and traveling, which are a perfect fit for his new role at Kettering.

"I have a great many friends who are alumni," he explained. "So I look forward to the networking opportunities available in my new position at my alma mater."