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Updated 10:00 AM April 4, 2005




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Dearborn, Flint campuses announce May 1 commencement speakers

U-M-Dearborn and U-M-Flint have announced the speakers for their upcoming commencements.
Ridenour (Photo courtesy Chrysler Group)
Gaffney (Photo by Michigan State AFL-CIO)
Mallett (Photo by Kim Kauffman Photography)

Eric Ridenour, Chrysler Group executive vice president for product development, and Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan State AFL-CIO, will be the featured speakers at U-M-Dearborn commencement ceremonies May 1.

U-M-Flint commencement activities will feature Jef Mallett, creator of the comic strip "Frazz," at 2:30 p.m. May 1 in the Perani Arena and Event Center.

Ridenour will speak at 10:30 a.m. in the Field House to graduates of the School of Management, and the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Gaffney will address graduates of the School of Education, and the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters at 2:30 p.m.

Ridenour, a Detroit native who received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from U-M in 1980, has been responsible for all Chrysler passenger car, sport utility vehicle and truck product teams since assuming his current position in 2003.

A member of the Chrysler executive committee, he also leads Chrysler's advanced engineering, powertrain and product strategy teams.

After earning his bachelor's degree, Ridenour worked for General Motors. He earned a master of business administration degree from the Business School in 1986. Ridenour joined Chrysler that year and has risen through the ranks as senior program planner, vice president for product planning and vice president of the premium vehicle product team.

Gaffney was elected president of the Michigan State AFL-CIO in 1999, after working in various leadership positions for the Teamsters Joint Council in Detroit. The labor federation represents almost 700,000 workers in 50 affiliated unions. Gaffney earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University (MSU) in 1982 and a master's degree in labor and industrial relations from MSU in 1984.

He has been a leader in developing greater levels of cooperation and collaboration among labor and management groups across the state and is involved in efforts to raise national public awareness of the positive state of labor relations in Michigan.

He also serves on the board of a number of civic groups and public agencies, including the United Way of Michigan, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan, and the Federal Reserve Bank, Chicago Region.

At age15, Mallett started drawing a daily comic strip for the Big Rapids Pioneer newspaper. He attended Ferris State University until he moved to the Butterworth Hospital School of Nursing in Grand Rapids. After a year in the nursing program, an illustration opportunity came up at the Grand Rapids Press, and Mallett joined the staff. He moved from the Press to the Flint Journal in 1987 as a staff artist and columnist, and in 1989 to his current position as art director at Booth Newspapers' capital bureau in Lansing.

Mallett's comic strip has been in newspapers nationwide for four years.

Mallett wrote and illustrated a children's book, "Dangerous Dan," published in 1996, then drew editorial cartoons for Booth's eight newspapers. "Frazz" was launched in 2001 and runs in 150 newspapers.

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