A fighter for equal opportunity in engineering
Lloyd Reuss spent 36 years climbing through the ranks of General Motors, becoming a protegé of company president Jim McDonald and ultimately stepping into the role of GM president himself in 1990. With his longtime colleague Robert Stempel elected GM’s CEO that same year, Reuss looked forward to a promising run as part of the company’s new leadership. But things did not go as planned: GM let go of Reuss and Stempel in 1992 after the company experienced significant losses and a declining market share.
Fortunately, Reuss saw that when one door closes, another opens, and his exit from GM at the age of 56 led to the most gratifying phase of his professional life. In May of 1993, he joined Focus: HOPE, a Detroit non-profit that aims to combat racism and injustice by providing education and training to largely minority communities. At Focus: HOPE, Reuss helped establish the Center for Advanced Technologies (CAT), of which he also became executive dean. He remained with the program for more than twenty years as it blossomed, granting more than 300 associate and bachelor degrees in engineering to inner-city students. And he did it without compensation from Focus: HOPE, supported instead by a large pension from GM. During Reuss’s tenure, the institution received accolades from the highest levels of government, including visits from President Bill Clinton and Colin Powell.
Lloyd also helped lead two major Focus: HOPE capital campaigns that yielded a combined total of $184 million, and founded the Corporate Advisory Board, serving as chairman for more than two decades.
His many achievements with the non-profit have been praised, with longtime Focus: HOPE CEO William F. Jones remarking that Reuss “set the standard for corporate leadership. As successful as he was in the auto industry, he has been equally successful in providing education and training opportunities to thousands of Detroiters.” In 2015, Reuss was honored as a “Hero for Hope” at Focus: HOPE’s gala fundraiser.
Lloyd Reuss’s unconventional career, which spanned from Big Three leadership to a nonprofit’s fight for social change, is proof that the most trying circumstances can lead to great things.