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After all is said and done, Dr. Goldsberry's biggest legacy will be a life well lived -- a life that any person, young, old or in between can learn from. His is a life that young people can use as a textbook like example of how to make their dreams a reality. He worked hard, he did not take any short cuts and he never shied away from anything fearing it would be too difficult. Being a pioneer is not easy, but as a Black man, he was a pioneer every time his goals required him to be one.
The Energizer Bunny
For all his achievements, Dr. Goldsberry is not a person that takes himself too seriously. One year for Halloween, he dressed up as the Energizer Bunny. The 6'3" man donned a costume that was authentic from the tip of the pink bunny ears down to the pink tights. Once he was completely dressed, he headed off to Ford Motor Co. It was a workday. The Energizer Bunny costume was perfect for him. The character is symbolic of how Dr. Goldsberry lives his life. He never stops. He keeps going and going and going.
It would take a book to give all the details about this man who is equally comfortable attending the church he worshiped in as a child, as he is in a corporate boardroom or at an MSU tailgate. He is the man that everyone knows or likes to say that they know. You may know him from a time he helped you. Maybe he provided you with chemistry tutoring while he was working on his Ph.D. at MSU. Perhaps he provided a recommendation when your child was having difficulties being accepted into college. He does not talk about the people he helps; recipients of his largesse are the ones that comment about his unselfishness.
Many can relate to Dr. Goldsberry's early life of being born into a working class family in a geographical location dominated by a single industry. He was born in Wilmington, Del, where the chemical industry (DuPont Chemical) reigned supreme. When he was a child, he charted a course to achieve his goals. While many people can relate to making plans to achieve a goal, how many adolescents look at an industry, deduce which people in that industry have the greatest earning potential, figure out the degree that is needed to be like those people and then get the highest degree that can be earned in that field? That is what Dr. Goldsberry did.
In reality, for the goals that young Goldsberry set for himself, the cards were stacked against him. Jim Crow laws mandating de jure racial segregation were enforced in the public school system of Wilmington, Del. until six years before he graduated high school. Even with cash infusions from the DuPont family, schools attended by Black children in Delaware were poorly maintained and the curricula substandard. Nevertheless, he made the most of his public school education and graduated fifth in his class.
Dr. Goldsberry funded scholarship programs at Central State University and Michigan State University.
He established a fellowship at Stanford.
Young Goldsberry headed to Ohio for college and graduated summa cum laude from Central State University with a B.S. degree in chemistry. Years later, he established the Goldsberry Scholarship Fund and endowed it with $100,000. As one of Central State University's most distinguished alumni, he became the recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1988.
After graduating from Central State University, young Goldsberry spent the summer working at DuPont as a research chemist before attending Michigan State University where he earned a Ph.D. in organic and physical chemistry. He places a high value on the mental discipline that the study of chemistry instilled in him. In 1996, in an effort to assist and encourage Black students in earning a degree in chemistry, he established the Ronald E. Goldsberry Family MSU Black Alumni Natural Science Scholarship. Earlier, in 1985 as chairperson of the MSU Black Alumni fund raising committee, he helped raise more than $300,000 for the scholarship endowment fund. Today, the fund has grown to more than one million dollars.
With Ph.D. credentials in hand, Dr. Goldsberry headed to California to serve two years as a U.S. Army captain. He was assigned to the NASA Ames Research Center where he worked as a research chemist. As a result of his work, a patent was obtained for a polymer composition. Other undertakings during this time include aiding in the founding of Nairobi College and organizing the chemistry section of the school.
The Commercialization of a Research Scientist
While completing his military obligation in a civilian capacity at the NASA-Ames Research Center, Dr. Goldsberry learned about the Stanford University MBA program. He thought the MBA program might teach him how to commercialize his science and research background. He entered the program, which accepts on average, less than 10% of applicants, and graduated in 1973. Only seven Blacks graduated from the MBA program in the 43 years between its founding and the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. It was the shock that followed Dr. King's death that caused the school to take steps to diversify the student body. Even with those efforts, only 129 Blacks entered the program in the seventies. He competed against Fulbright Scholars, Marshall Scholars and Rhodes Scholars to gain admission. Thanks to his academic and professional achievements, he was admitted to the MBA program
The year 1973 was not the worst of times, but it was far from the best of times relative to minorities gaining admittance to the management suites in corporate America. Only eight years had passed since President Johnson signed Executive Order 11246 mandating government contractors not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Only five years had passed since the race riots of 1968. Still, Dr. Goldsberry was on the fast track and it had nothing to do with affirmative action, as very few Americans were equal to him in terms of academic credentials. Certainly he was in rare company when it came to visionary thinking. He proved that talent and ability will win out in the end and he soon ensconced himself in Fortune 500 companies with one notable exception – Boston Consulting Group.
The first Fortune 500 company Dr. Goldsberry worked for was Hewlett Packard. He started working for the company parttime in 1972 while completing his MBA. He worked as a product manager performing applications research on scientific instruments and developing marking strategies. At that time, Hewlett Packard ranked at 292 on the Fortune 500.
After he completed his MBA, he was hired by Boston Consulting Group, a privately held management consulting company, where he was a management consultant that assisted Fortune 500 company executives develop long-term business strategies. He was one of 142 consultants and the only Black person at this company that was considered one of the most prestigious employers of MBA graduates.
Dr. Goldsberry's Second Job After Earning an MBA was an Upper Middle Management Position with Gulf Oil Corporation
Leveraging his experience with Boston Consulting Group, in 1975, Dr. Goldsberry stepped into the director of corporate planning position with Gulf Oil Corporation. At the time, the corporation ranked at position seven on the Fortune 500. In this position, he was responsible for formulating long-term business goals and strategies for the achievement of those business goals. The company would begin a period of demise in 1980, but the years Dr. Goldsberry was with the company – 1975 to 1978 -- were the corporation's heyday.
In 1978, Dr. Goldsberry assumed the position of vice president for business development and planning at Occidental Chemical Corporation (now known as Occidental Petroleum). In 1978, the company was ranked at number 27 on the Fortune 500. In 1981, he moved on to Parker Chemical Company, a subsidiary of Occidental and assumed the position of vice president and general manager.
While Parker Chemical had once been a vital player in the automotive market as a supplier to the Big Three, when Dr. Goldsberry arrived on the scene, the American automotive industry was slumping and Parker's sales had declined by 20 percent. He dived right in, laying off workers, freezing salaries, getting union concessions and launching programs to improve employee morale. However, Occidental put Parker up for sale in 1982. Goldsberry assembled financing and tried to buy the company, but Ford Motor Co. became the new owner.
The Ford Years
In the process of due diligence, Ford became familiar with Dr. Goldsberry and recognized that he was the only contender for the position of president and chief operating officer of the new Ford subsidiary. Dr. Goldsberry proved he was the best man for the job, turning the company into a global industry leader. Under his management, revenue and profits doubled as the product line was diversified through acquisitions. The company was recognized for best employee relations by Industry Week magazine and as outstanding company by Fortune magazine. At the time, 1983, he was the only Black person to serve as CEO of an American chemical company.
When Ford decided to sell Parker, Dr. Goldsberry again tried to purchase the company through a leveraged buyout offer. He lost out -- this time to the German conglomerate Henkel. Dr. Goldsberry began to contemplate starting his own company, but before he could put a plan in motion to make that happen, Ford made him an offer he could not refuse. In 1987, he became general manager of the Plastics Products division of Ford's Automotive Component Group. The position was a giant leap forward for him. Ford was ranked third on the Fortune 500 list. His responsibilities and operating budget increased exponentially. The division supplied one-third of the plastics Ford used for car interiors.
In 1990, Ford appointed Dr. Goldsberry to the position of executive director of Sales and Service Strategies - North America. In the past, he had not stayed with one company for more than four years, but at Ford, he realized he had the potential to rise higher. Certainly, Ford clearly saw his potential as over the next ten years, his career had one speed – fast.
Shattering the Glass Ceiling
In little over a year, he was promoted to a new position - general sales and marketing manager of the Customer Service division. In 1994, he became a corporate officer when he was promoted to vice-president and general manager for Customer Service - North America. In the history of Ford, he was the second Black vice president and the first Black person to serve as the head of an operations division. He was now responsible for maintaining and growing the profits of Ford's network of more than 5000 dealerships. In this position he faced the biggest challenge of his career when in April 1996, he was forced to coordinate the largest automobile recall in history. The recall affected 8.7 million vehicles.
He handled the recall with his usual finesse and the next year, undoubtedly, this successful undertaking tipped the scales in his favor and he was named global vice president and general manager of the Global Ford Customer Service Division. In this capacity, Dr. Goldsberry now managed an operation that handled parts supply and logistics, marketing, dealership diagnostics, training, owner relations and customer satisfaction at more than 13,000 Ford Motor Co. dealerships. The division spanned the globe, employed 14,000 people and had revenues in excess of $8 billion.
In 1999, Goldsberry stepped into what would be his last position with Ford -- vice president Global Service Business Strategy. When he left Ford in 2000, it was the end of a 17-year run of success.
In 2000, many of Dr. Goldsberry's contemporaries were taking early retirements, but that was not for him. Immediately upon leaving Ford in 2000, Goldsberry assumed the role of chairman of the board of OnStation, an e-commerce solution for the automotive service industry. He served in that capacity until August 2006. Today he is a consultant on automotive practices for Deloitte Consulting, a position he has held since 2001.