Richard ’63 and Mona Alonzo
Couple established scholarship to help UDM Engineering students excelby Liz Cezat, special writer
Richard (Dick) Alonzo ’63, retired vice president of Engineering at Guardian Industries Corp., and his wife Mona have made an endowed scholarship gift to assist UDM engineering students. As an engineering graduate, Alonzo was the first in his family to graduate from college. He is grateful for the “earn and learn” aspect of the co-op engineering program; otherwise, it would have been extremely difficult for him to pay for his education.
“I am a supporter of the co-op program at UDM because it combines liberal arts, science, and economic courses the first two years, followed by an intense concentration on engineering and on-the-job experience,” said Alonzo. “I believe a UDM co-op engineering graduate enters the workforce with a significant advantage over a traditional four-year engineering graduate.”
Upon graduation, Alonzo joined the Ford Motor Glass Division, where he had his co-op work experience. He was assigned to a process development team that was working to improve flat glass manufacture.
After five years at the automaker, Alonzo was recruited by his former boss and mentor at Ford to join him at Guardian Industries Corp.
In 1968, Guardian had only one windshield glass fabrication plant located in Detroit and employed about 500 people. When Alonzo retired in 2007, Guardian was a global corporation with 20,000 employees and glass manufacturing and fabrication plants on five continents. He was part of the team that drove the company’s globalization. As vice president of Engineering, he was responsible for the construction and startup of all the new plants. He traveled extensively and interacted with people of diverse cultures.
During the plant construction phase, the company typically hired local engineers to work on site with Guardian employees. The best of the local engineers were asked to stay on as employees of the new facility. Many of those engineers were later promoted to newly constructed plants in other countries.
Despite all the time spent on other continents, Alonzo didn’t have to learn other languages, although he did study Spanish early in his career. He found that government officials and management employees at various plants were eager to speak to him in English. “Fortunately for Americans, English is the universal language of business,” he noted.
Of his leadership role and 38 years at Guardian, Alonzo said, “It was interesting to hire people, mentor them and encourage them to develop and rise to their potential. As a company, Guardian was constantly expanding, so engineers and other employees could see movement and opportunity. It was a great work environment for people who accepted responsibility and were go-getters.
“Overall, Guardian has built and maintained a team of outstanding people. It is no coincidence that most of Guardian’s manufacturing management are degreed engineers,” he said.
Since his retirement, Alonzo and his wife have been busy with travel and attending cultural and charity events. Alonzo admits to being defeated by golf, but enjoys the fit of a paintbrush in his hand as he creates oil and watercolor paintings. The Alonzos have two grown children: Richard, Jr. and Caroline.
Alonzo’s advice to students considering an engineering degree is: “It opens a lot of doors. Many people might think that an engineering career involves sitting in front of a computer and solving problems. For some, engineering is an excellent springboard for management. People skills are as important as understanding the technology.”
The Alonzos have been supporters of annual scholarships at UDM and have taken great satisfaction in the results of their giving. Establishing the Richard and Mona Alonzo Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will be vested in three years, is their way of ensuring that engineering students receive tuition assistance for years to come. In making their gift, Alonzo and his wife noted, “The future of our country depends on an educated workforce. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are the essential components of innovation that will provide the new jobs and economic stability for the future.”