The University Record, October 1, 1996

$3.5 million from Vlasic establishes first endowed deanship

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

The University has received a $3.5 million gift to establish an endowed deanship in the College of Engineering to be known as the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. It is the first endowed deanship in any U-M college or school.

The Regents approved the establishment of the deanship at their September meeting and appointed Stephen W. Director as the first Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, effective Nov. 1. Director joined the U-M July 1 as dean of the college and professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Financial returns from the $3.5 million endowment will be available to the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering to be used at his or her discretion to advance the mission of the college.

"This gift will stand as a visible statement of the central importance of good management in an academic enterprise," said U-M Provost J. Bernard Machen.

"The College of Engineering is extremely grateful for Mr. Vlasic's outstanding generosity and support," Director said. "It is a personal honor for me to be the first individual to hold this position."

Vlasic earned his B.S.E. in industrial and mechanical engineering from U-M in 1949, where he was a member of Tau Beta Pi. After college, Vlasic went to work in the Detroit food distribution business founded by his father, and assumed leadership of Vlasic Foods Co. in 1963 when it was still a small, local Michigan pickle producer. By 1978, the business had grown to $100 million and ranked number one in the nation when it was sold to Campbell Soup Co. Vlasic has served as a director of Campbell Soup Co. for the last 18 years and was chair in 1988-93. He also is founder and chair of O/E Automation based in Troy, Mich.

"I am delighted to be able to make this gift," Vlasic said, "because in my business career I learned that a modest amount of money placed at the discretion of a good manager can be multiplied in usefulness many, many times."

A long-time civic leader, Vlasic serves in key roles at Cranbrook Educational Community and Henry Ford Health System. He also is president of the Vlasic Foundation, which supports many philanthropic concerns.