Our History & Archives
A group of visionaries from Flint founded Kettering University in 1919 as The School of Automobile Trades. It opened under the direction of Major Albert Sobey with the goal of training technical and management talent for the rapidly growing automobile industry. By 1923 the school had grown to offer a full four-year cooperative education program enrolling more than 600 full-time students, and in recognition of this growth Major Sobey rechristened it the Flint Institute of Technology. Three years later and appreciating the importance of cooperative education, the General Motors Corporation acquired the school, renaming it the General Motors Institute (GMI).
For the next 56 years, GM operated the school as GMI, and it became for the company one of its best sources of creative and successful engineering and managerial talent. By 1945 the Institute had added a fifth-year thesis requirement and had evolved into a full degree-granting university with a unique educational model built upon an ongoing and strong commitment to cooperative education.
In 1982, GM divested itself of ownership of the school, and it became the private, non-profit University it is today, however first under the name GMI Engineering & Management Institute (GMI-EMI). Shortly thereafter the institution began offering Master’s-level graduate programs to both on and off campus students.
On January 1, 1998, GMI-EMI changed its name a final time to honor, Charles Kettering (1876-1958), an inventor, an industrialist, and an early and strong proponent of professional cooperative education. Today as Kettering University, the school continues this historic tradition, and marked its centennial year in 2019. Over that proud 100-year history, Kettering University has become one of the country’s premier STEM institutions and is known around the world for educating great and successful leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, scientists, and business people.
Reflect, Inspire & Share: Kettering University Stories
Learn more about the institution’s unique history.
With 2019’s “Kettering University/GMI at 100,” author, historian and consultant Troupe “Tim” Noonan captured the institution’s unique story of perseverance and adaptation in its first century. Noonan has published over 35 books specializing in institutional and family histories and written extensively for Life, Esquire, Forbes and other publications.
Archives and Special Collections
The Kettering University Archives is located at Factory One in Flint. The focus at the archives is to preserve and provide access to the history of Kettering University, the automotive industry and Flint.
The Special Collections and University Archives was established in 1974, largely through the vision and research interests of Richard P. Scharchburg and members of the University’s Alumni Foundation. The nexus of the collection was the acquisition of the William C. “Billy” Durant Collection from Durant’s widow, and has grown into a collection in excess of 4,500 linear feet of documents (manuscripts and photographs, mainly), plus several hundred books and other “artifacts.”
The emphasis of the collection documents the early history of the automobile industry—not surprisingly, given the early history of the University itself. Because of this, however, the collection is also an excellent source for the history of Flint and the history of Kettering University itself; the three are inexorably intertwined.
The collection also documents the administrative, academic and social life of Kettering University. Beginning with the papers of Major Albert Sobey, the archives is the home of the records kept by his successors as well as many other offices of the University. The archives has also collected copies of The Reflector, the yearbook published by the student body, and other student organizations, as well—and the archives is always looking to add more of those kinds of records.
The Charles F. Kettering Collection is one of the largest collections in the archives and has been used by scholars worldwide. The archives’ digital photo collection now exceeds 100,000 images. A partial online catalog along with digitized photos can be found on the archives website.
The Humanities Art Center is located on the fourth floor of the Academic Building on campus. The gallery features world-class exhibits and collections that exemplify the craftsmanship of local and national artists. A variety of media are represented including paintings, photographs, sculpture and ceramics. The center also holds a permanent collection of over 500 pieces.
Hours of Operation
Archives at Factory One
The Archives is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET), Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Kettering University's Curator of Special Collections may be reached at (810) 762-9690.
Humanities Art Center
The Center is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (ET), Wednesday through Friday, excluding holidays. To schedule a visit to the Humanities Art Center, please contact Kettering University's Curator of Special Collections at (810) 762-9690 or the Library's Administrative Specialist at (810) 762-9840.