The completion of the Boldly Forward campaign, the opening of the Learning Commons and a host of other milestones and achievements mark a new era for Kettering University that will transform the University and, in keeping with Kettering’s tradition of leadership, transform the way education is delivered. As University President Robert K. McMahan has said, “The future is here.”
This long-awaited future did not suddenly materialize any more than the Learning Commons suddenly appeared one day behind the Campus Center. It has been building for a full century, which was celebrated in 2019 with the Centennial and the phrase, “the Future of Education Built a Century Ago.”
Ten years ago, after a troublesome start to the 21st century marked by 9/11, the dot-com crash of 2001 and the recession of 2008, that future seemed in peril. In 2012, Flint was the second-most dangerous city in the country, and the Kettering campus was surrounded by hundreds of acres of blighted neighborhoods plagued by crime. The entrance to the University at the top of Chevrolet Avenue was an eyesore dominated by the ugly and contaminated Chevy in the Hole brownfield across from the campus. The campus itself was run-down, the buildings and labs in need of updating and repair, and the technological infrastructure was well behind the times.
Kettering’s financial situation provided little hope for a rebound. A skeletal advancement staff had built a paltry endowment of $50 million, and the annual fund hovered around $250,000 per year, with faculty and staff participation an uninspiring 17%. Alumni were disengaged from fundraising and recruitment, and only 329 students entered in 2011.
In order to reverse this steep and discouraging decline, the Kettering community stepped up to initiate a decade as transformative as the previous one had been debilitating. The goal, beyond survival, was to remain true to GMI and Kettering’s unique educational heritage and vision — equal emphasis on the classroom and the workplace — while reshaping that vision for a rapidly changing future. The task was almost too big and too comprehensive to imagine.