Joseph '92 and Kara '94 Fortman
Alumni couple met as Engineering studentsby Rackeline Hoff, special writer
When Joseph Fortman ’92 met Kara Kennedy ’94 in the early nineties while undergraduates at University of Detroit Mercy, neither had any idea that they would marry, have a family and build a happy, productive life together. But, that’s exactly what happened.
Today, they both have engineering careers, live in the dream house that they built together in Northville, Mich. and are the parents of two active children—son Casey, 13, and daughter Brooke, 9.
Originally from St. Charles, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, Joe came to UDM for its Engineering program and because he was awarded an Insignis scholarship. He was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon social fraternity, as well as Tau Beta Pi, Pi Tau Sigma and Alpha Sigma Nu. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Kara grew up in Harrison Township, Mich. and selected UDM because of its Engineering program and the comfortable size of its campus. She, too, was an Insignis Scholar, also earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. Her extra-curricular activities included being a member of the University tennis team, Pi Tau Sigma, the Society of Women Engineers, and serving as a campus tour guide.
Both have expressed fond memories of their college experience. “I lived on campus all four years and loved being a student at UDM,” said Kara. “I made so many wonderful friends.” Joe echoed her sentiments and added, “UDM was a perfect fit for us. The Engineering program was very good and offered a lot of personal attention. We got to know many of our teachers one-on-one and didn’t feel like just a number.”
After graduation, both Joe and Kara were hired by Ford Motor Company, and they have spent their entire careers in the field of automotive engineering. Joe has changed jobs, primarily among Ford-related companies, and is currently a program manager for Flex-N-Gate, specializing in exterior automotive lighting products. Kara continued through the years with Ford, working part time while their children were younger. Last October, she returned to a full-time position as an engineering supervisor in Ford’s Automatic Transmission Engineering.
After starting their family, the pair teamed up in 2004 to build their dream home in Northville. Utilizing their engineering backgrounds along with their program management skills, Joe and Kara were the general contractors for the house. Although they hired private sub-contractors, they supplemented this by doing plenty of the work themselves. Both admit that it was a major undertaking, but they are delighted with the results.
In his spare time, Joe enjoys flying and holds a private pilot’s license with an instrument rating.
“I got my pilot’s license in 1995, but it was equally satisfying when I earned my instrument rating last year,” said Joe. He is a member of the Dawn Patrol Flying Club, which owns two four-seat Cessna airplanes and is based at Mettetal Airport in Plymouth. He is also involved with their children’s sports activities and is currently coaching their daughter’s soccer team.
Kara likes to spend time outdoors, reading mysteries, golfing and following politics. She also serves as an Elder on the board of First Presbyterian Church of Plymouth. As a family, the four Fortmans enjoy geocaching, a GPS-based treasure hunting activity. Kara explained, “It’s a very popular pastime these days. There’s a network of participants who find clues online. Then we go tromping through the woods looking for the caches.”
To maintain their support of UDM, Joe and Kara attend some of the Engineering and Athletic events, as well as making annual financial contributions. They are currently members of The President’s Cabinet.
“We were both fortunate enough to be the recipients of Insignis scholarships, and now we want to give back to the University to help the next generation of students,” commented Joe.
“UDM offers so much to its students, both in terms of a
value-oriented education, as well as strong ties to the automotive industry. It’s a great local treasure!” added Kara.