Kettering is part of Cole family legacy

Oct 14, 2013

Adam Cole was very much aware of his family legacy when he decided to transfer to Kettering from Bowling Green.

In a cover story in 1959, Time Magazine referred to Edward N. Cole, then the general manager of Chevrolet and a Kettering University graduate, as “brilliant.”

“This year, Cole’s Chevy Division will produce nearly 1.5 million cars, 27 percent of the U.S. total and more than either West Germany or Britain made in 1958. It will gobble up more steel (4 million-plus tons) than Sweden makes. Its sales (retail: $3.5 billion) are double the gross national product of Ireland,” Time wrote in its profile of Cole.

Time Magazine 1959Cole -- whose motto was “kick the hell out of the status quo” -- was one of Kettering’s most successful alumni, a legend in the American automotive industry. The 1933 graduate began his career working for Cadillac, was a chief design engineer for Army tanks in the 1940s, including developing M5 tanks, was a chief engineer for Cadillac, designed the Walker Bulldog tank, created the small-block V-8 engine and put it in the 1955 Chevy and later in the Corvette, brought the Corvair to market and eventually became the president of General Motors, where he helped push for development of airbags and the catalytic converter, among other things. When he retired from General Motors, he held 18 separate patents.

Adam Cole, a Mechanical Engineering major from Troy, Mich., never met his grandfather, who died in a plane crash in 1977. But he was very much aware of his family legacy when he decided to transfer to Kettering from Bowling Green.

“My grandfather is why I wanted to be an engineer,” Adam Cole said. “My grandmother always told me about him, about the great success he had, and that I had that blood in me. I just needed the right tools, and Kettering was the place that could give me those tools.”

Adam Cole learned about his grandfather while spending summers working on his grandmother’s ranch.

“It taught me the value of hard work,” Adam Cole said. “We would watch PBS together and I’d just ask her questions about my grandpa.”

It wasn’t just Ed Cole’s career accomplishments and technical abilities that his grandson identified with. It was his innovative spirit and willingness to forge his own direction that was particularly captivating to Adam.

Adam Cole“I was really interested in his involvement with the Corvette,” Adam Cole said. “That model of car was basically going to be thrown away, GM didn’t know what to do with it. My grandpa fought to keep it, even when he knew that if it failed, he’d probably be fired. It just taught me that sometimes you have to pave your own path.”

Although Adam shares his grandfather’s love of cars, he’s not necessarily looking to follow Ed Cole’s footsteps into the auto industry. He believes an engineering background will give him the technical skills necessary to do a variety of things, including possibly launching his own business someday -- particularly, a gym and fitness franchise.

“My dad is an entrepreneur too, so that kind of runs in the family,” he said. “I think anyone who is smart and passionate about it can be an engineer, but it takes a different mindset to go out on your own and try to start your own business. My engineering education will give me the tools I need to take good risks.”

That path to looking for a technical education to supplement his goals led Adam Cole to Kettering after he started out at a more traditional public university. Cole said that, along with his grandmother’s influence, the unique nature of a Kettering education appealed to him.

“My grandma was the first one to tell me to check out Kettering when I was thinking about transferring,” Adam Cole said. “It’s a focused school with no distractions. It teaches you a new way of thinking and solving problems. She helped push me over the edge to go here, and I’m glad she did.”

Interested in transferring to Kettering University? Get more information or call Roger Smith, Transfer Coordinator at 800-955-4464 ext. 7865.