James McElya

Distinguished Service Citation Award 2013

Jim McElya is in the process of retiring – again. From June 2000 to July 2008, McElya was either Cooper Standard’s president, CEO or both. In July 2008, he became executive chairman. But that wasn’t the end of his tenure. He was called back as president and CEO in March 2009 to lead the company through restructuring. Ultimately, that meant filing for Chapter 11 reorganization, a personally very painful process.

Today, Cooper-Standard, headquartered in Novi, Mich., is a healthy, global supplier of systems and components for the automotive industry. Products include sealing and trim, fuel and brake, fluid transfer, thermal and emissions and anti-vibration systems. Cooper Standard employs more than 22,000 people globally and operates in 19 countries around the world.
For 33 years, Mr. McElya lived through major structural changes in the automotive supplier industry, the up and down markets, momentous technology shifts, and the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression.

As chairman of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA), he went to Washington DC in 2008 to testify before Congress and ask for a $5 billion bailout for auto suppliers.
James McElya didn’t have a typical childhood. He was left at the Salvation Army when he was 6 weeks old and was in and out of 11 foster homes by the time he turned 18. How he has operated as head of

Cooper-Standard is due, in large part, to his past. The mind-set of giving back to the community has taken hold in his company – from local food banks deliver food to raising money for a clinic for the homeless.

The most visible evidence has been a partnership with Detroit journalist Mitch Albom that resulted in the 2008 opening of the S.A.Y. Detroit Family Health Clinic. It offers medical services to children and their mothers.

McElya won’t be stopping his charitable work when he steps down from Cooper-Standard. He will be devoting his free hours to the Jim and Jane McElya Charitable Trust, a faith-based foundation focused on children.

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