June 2, 2011/Detroit News
By Mark Hicks
Allan Gilmour, tapping experience as Ford exec to balance labor, monetary sides of education
Allan Gilmour spent more than 30 years working at Ford Motor Co. When he became Wayne State University's 11th president, he instantly noted similarities between the two Metro Detroit institutions.
"I used to have a colleague at Ford who described the auto industry as both labor intensive — it takes a lot of people to run a big car company — and capital intensive: It takes a lot of money to develop the new products," he said.
"The same is true here. We're labor intensive in that … we have a very substantial professional work force. And on the capital side, the buildings cost money, the technical equipment costs money," he says. "We have both of those intense elements at work."
Balancing those parts so that Wayne State remains a hub for academic achievement and regional development is key to Gilmour's plans for the university.
Since becoming its interim president last summer and being named president in January, the former Ford vice chairman has pushed ahead with his staff — drawing on the expertise he gained in diverse leadership roles — to help shape the school's future.
Under his watch, a task force has started toughening the university's admissions policy. The financial aid budget has increased. A consulting firm is identifying ways to update academic services. Gilmour says officials plan to strengthen efforts to lift the retention rate — which has risen to about 77 percent in the past five years. And there are plans to launch an endowment drive — the second in Wayne State's 142-year history — to boost funds in the face of dwindling state dollars.
"Since assuming the presidency of Wayne State University, President Gilmour quickly established himself as a thoughtful and genuine leader in every true sense of the word," says David Ripple, the school's vice president of development and alumni affairs and head of its foundation. "In a very short period of time, he has built a high degree of trust and respect with the faculty, staff and administration of the university, which is not easily achieved on any college campus."