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The Current - Fall 2005

Alumni Profile: Joel Gibson ’72, ’76: “Expand your horizons, embrace reality and give of yourself.”

Joel Gibson received both his B.S. in Operations Research and Management Science and his MBA in Organizational Development from the University of Detroit. After graduation, he took a position as a college graduate management trainee at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM). He went on to serve in a variety of leadership and internal consultant positions in labor/employee relations and organizational development at BCBSM. Gibson has been vice president of Human Resources and Organizational Development for St. Joseph Healthcare System Trinity Health since 1998. He serves on the Board of Leadership Macomb, Operation ABLE, The Art Center, and is a volunteer consultant to the New Center Community Mental Health Association and the Michigan Chapter of National Association of Human Rights Workers. He is also a professional musician and vocalist and has recorded and performed with many established R&B, pop and jazz artists.

What led you to study at University of Detroit?

Prior to graduation from high school, I was fortunate enough to have numerous opportunities at many colleges, including Stanford University, Tufts University and the University of Windsor. During high school, I was a professional musician, and I wanted to become a famous singer—my aspiration then, as it is to this day, was to become a member of the Temptations. By the time I was a high school senior, I was performing a lot and starting to record, and I wanted to stay in Detroit to maximize my opportunities in the music business.

I chose U of D over the University of Windsor because of the reputation of the University’s business program, and because of Dr. Rick Ito, who was the dean of the Business School at the time. He personally called me, and we met to discuss my educational and life goals. He persuaded me to enroll in his new program, Management Science/Operations Research, rather than the accounting major I had initially chosen.  He was a warm, caring, and extremely intelligent gentleman with unparalled integrity.  I completed the program, which at that time was a five-year program, in four years.  I was one of eight in the first graduating class.

What do I remember most?

I remember the 8:00 a.m. calculus courses, the labor relations courses taught by the inimitable Mike Whitty—he used to host some of his smaller classes at his apartment in Palmer Park—and the political science classes taught by the legendary State Representative, Jackie Vaughn, Jr.

A classmate and I used to do consumer protection “testing” work on Saturday mornings. We would pose as a young married couple with no credit, needing furniture. I saw the unfortunate financial exploitation of those in lower economic classes that still exists today.  Those experiences emphasized for me the compelling need for those in influential positions to work to eliminate the egregious acts of persons or institutions in our society.

What did I learn at the University that I still use?

That adaptability, flexibility, introspection and perseverance always prevail. The ability to adapt to the current state, anticipate the future state, analyze the implications and dynamics of the same, and to determine the optimal course of actions. Essentially, what I learned in my numerous management science/operations research and political science courses, allowed me to survive and ultimately prevail during complex and difficult periods in my life.

What made your University experience unique?

I entered U of D a year after the Detroit riots, and, as a child of parents of different races, always had challenging and interesting experiences during that era. U of D began visibly embracing the significance of the implications of the 1967 riots and worked with Focus:HOPE, New Detroit and other lesser-known advocacy organizations to implement their commitment to the City and all of its residents. The student population was primarily non-minority and Catholic in 1968, so as a minority and non-Catholic, I was impressed by the sincerity and open-minded atmosphere that characterized most of the student and faculty population.

What advice would you give today’s business students?

Know yourself, know your business. Integrity is paramount; respect is earned by always respecting others.  Ego and sense of self are necessary; however, inflated egos kill both careers and relationships. Give your time and money to organizations and individuals in need. Initiate constant introspection, and constantly assess your values to ensure that they are inclusive, pure, and truly supportive of humankind.