Story by DXP Member Dale Johnson

I was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1936 and attended Catholic schools in St. Louis, MO through high school. I attended Christian Brothers College (CBC), which is a military high school and graduated from there in 1953.  While practicing for graduation, class members were discussing where they were going to college, and someone mentioned GMI.  I had no idea what that was.  I questioned him further and learned it was a General Motor’s college in Flint, MI. GMI had a co-op program where I could work and go to school, which would help pay my way since, at that time I had no means to go to college.  I applied to GMI through Chevrolet - St. Louis, and with the help of my uncle, a GM department manager, I was accepted and began school in the fall of 1953.


Fellow students approached me about the possibility of joining a different kind of fraternity, one that was not based on traditional foolishness, but one with character, friendship, religion & community at the core. Service was the Eleventh Fellowship.  I did like the idea, decided to become a member, and was accepted as one of the charter members.  I think it was Nel Whitty who asked me, but cannot remember for sure.


During the time that I was at GMI my best friend, Walt Bartkowiak (a fellow St. Louis GMI co-op), and I stayed in an apartment that was attached to a veterinarian’s office and was located on Dort Highway. We had the privilege of staying there if we performed chores in the office and kennels on a daily basis.  Dr. Fred Ferguson, the vet, was kind enough to offer us a Dalmatian named “Lady” for our fraternity mascot. He said that she was in good health and would serve for many years. She was a great mascot and since then I have had another Dalmatian named “Domino” who even went to Mexico with us when we were assigned there.  


After graduation, I was married to a Flint girl, and I returned to St. Louis, to begin my career.


I was hired as a student assembler in 1953, but at 17 was too young to go into the factory. My first jobs were within the confines of the personnel department. After I turned 18, I was reclassified as a GMI student and was allowed to work in the plant at the various jobs they felt would enhance my career.  


I completed my fifth year project while working. My thesis was titled “Statistical Sampling and Vendor Rating at Chevrolet - St. Louis”. I received my degree at a commencement ceremony in Flint in 1958.


Following graduation from GMI, in August of 1958 I began work as a Junior Quality Control Engineer. Uncle Sam beckoned me in October, 1958 for a period of active duty in the US Army Reserve.  I served six months at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and was then released back to the reserves on April 21, 1959.  My son, Jeff was born the day after I was discharged. Hence, no medical benefits from Uncle Sam!!!


I returned to Chevrolet – St. Louis and became a foreman in the inspection department and was then assigned to the Corvette Plant, called the “flour mill”, due to the fiberglass sanding dust throughout the body shop and building.


In December 1961, I became a general foreman in the inspection department and was assigned to the second shift in the passenger car plant. In January 1964, I was promoted to assistant superintendent of inspection at the St. Louis complex, which included passenger car, truck and Corvette assembly. In January 1967, I was promoted to “chief inspector” over the Chevrolet operation at St. Louis.  


In December, 1968, I was transferred to the GM Assembly Plant at Lordstown, Ohio as general superintendent.  At that time it was called Chevrolet/Fisher Body, and later it became a GMAD (General Motors Assembly Division) plant.


In November, 1971 I was named as director, plant quality control at the GMAD Lordstown, complex (passenger car and van production). After various other assignments at Lordstown, I was then transferred to the GM de Mexico division and assigned to Saltillo, Mexico. Here we were to build a new plant to assemble cars in the town of Ramos Arizpe, just outside Saltillo. In fall 1982, as part of the cadre of the plant, I was asked to do many things in preparation for the beginning of car assembly.


The four years in Mexico was a very challenging assignment, but enjoyable, because of the people we met and worked with, but I was happy to return to the US in August of 1983. Upon our return, I was assigned to the GMAD Headquarters in Warren OH as manager of strategic planning for the division.


GMAD then was merged with Buick, Olds and Cadillac divisions into B-0-C group. I was assigned to the quality control organization at that time. I later became manager of information management, coordinating budgets between B-O-C and EDS (electronic data systems).


I retired on June 1, 1992 from B-O-C which was merged on that day into another organization.


After retirement, I returned to St. Louis, to be with family, especially for support for my wife, in the event something happened to me.  We had no family in the Detroit area. Since retirement, we have travelled in our motor home, and became active in the Family Motor Coach Association.  We did have to give it up due to the expense.  We then traveled to Australia in 1994, and have been on eight cruises - to places like the South Pacific and the Panama Canal. Today we are enjoying life in our St. Louis condo and are involved in a number of church and social activities.  


My experience at GMI and Delta Chi Rho emphasized that as a person, we are more than just someone who does a job, but have responsibility to the community and to each other. I am so glad that we, as a group, get together to renew old times and show our love for those guys who shared our experience. These guys brought leadership into the Fraternity.


The founders of Delta Chi Rho were recognized as leaders in the city of Flushing and at GMI. I was proud to be part of this group and still am today. I fully support the endowed scholarship and hope that it will be completed shortly. We all became leaders in our careers.

Dale Johnson
Legacy Stories of the Delta Chi Rho Charter Members, written for the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of Delta Chi Rho Fraternity, General Motors Institute (GMI), Flint, MI 1955-2015

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