Dan Rivard
Dan Rivard '59 heads out on a check ride on the Indianapolis Speedway during 1994 Indy 500 festivities. Race car driver Parnelli Jones is at the wheel of the offical pace car, a '94 Mustang Cobra Limited Edition. In the 1990s, Rivard was called out of retirement to serve in Ford's international racing effort.
“When Tech students work on projects like these, they learn how to work under pressure and produce a superior product.”

To learn more about supporting Michigan Tech through a real estate transaction, contact Eric Halonen, director of major and planned giving, at 906-487-3325 or ehalonen@mtu.edu.

A Quality Life

One of the most recognizable mottos in the world was coined not by a copywriter but by an engineer. Ford Motor Company's "Quality Is Job One" was a slogan and a corporate touchstone for seventeen years, practically forever in the short-attention-span world of marketing. It originated with one man's obsession with making everything better.

"Dan Rivard was the face of Total Quality Improvement at Ford Motor Company for an entire era," said Shea McGrew, Michigan Tech's vice president for advancement. "To this day, he lives and breathes it."

Rivard '59 joined Ford in 1960 and quickly rose through the ranks. In the 1980s, he was executive director for product and process quality improvement, leading efforts to fundamentally change the way the company created and produced vehicles. "I learned inside Ford that permanently imbedded processes are so important," he says. He led several largescale process improvements that helped save the auto giant "from the jaws of the lion" at least three times.

His career also included a mechanical engineer's dream come true. In 1993, he was called out of retirement to lead the company's international racing effort, giving him entré to the pressure-cooker world of NASCAR, Formula 1, Indy cars, and World Cup rallies. There, he again applied the lessons learned in industry to racing performance and safety.

"Process improvement applies to everything," he said. "In racing, it's not only the race car itself; you have to look at the driver, the track, and how the team does business. You have to take a holistic approach."

It's a never-ending effort, he stressed. "You need to look at how you do things everyday in every way, to improve forever. The world constantly moves around you, and if you don't adapt, you fall behind. That's what process improvement is about."

Rivard now helps Tech's current students learn some of those lessons through the Dan and Carol Rivard Product Realization Center. (Carol is a Houghton native whom Dan met at Tech.) A gift to the Department of Mechanical Engineering– Engineering Mechanics (ME-EM), the lab allows students to design, model, and fabricate new products.

"When Tech students work on projects like these, they learn how to work under pressure and produce a superior product," he says. "When we had big problems at Ford, the Tech guys' hands-on laboratory and teamwork experiences gave them the skills and confidence to get their hands dirty and solve them," he says.

The Rivards' decision to support an entire lab was executed via a "bargain sale": They sold Tech a parcel of lakefront property below market value but still realized a profit. Then the University resold it at a net gain. Their donation is helping other students shape their future, just as Rivard's Tech education launched his own career.

"I thought I was growing up to be a carpenter," he says, recalling that he was first in his family to attend college.

If he'd been a carpenter, he probably would have been a great one. But it's no surprise that Rivard instead became a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company. "He truly believes that with enough common sense and technical knowhow, any organization can improve itself by remaking its processes," McGrew said. "And he has applied those rules to himself."

Rivard has served on the Board of Control, the Alumni Association Board, and the Michigan Tech Fund Board of Trustees. He is a member of the Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics Academy and was awarded an honorary PhD in Mechanical Engineering. He also received the Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumnus Award and Outstanding Service Award.