The vision of Charles Stewart Mott has stood the test of time.

Debasish Dutta photo
Deba Dutta, Ph.D., is the chancellor of the University of Michigan-Flint

An accomplished businessman, engineer and community leader, Mott is best known for his steadfast commitment to his adopted home of Flint. His revolutionary actions to help others led to the creation of the Foundation that bears his name, a pillar of the community that has helped so many for nearly a century.

On the Mott Foundation’s website, Mott’s vision for this critical asset is described this way:

The Foundation affirmed Mr. Mott’s vision of a world in which every person was in partnership with the rest of the human race, and where each individual’s quality of life is connected to the well-being of the community — locally and globally.

It was Mott’s entrepreneurial spirit combined with his desire to improve society for all people that made him the maverick. Now is the time for us to recommit to Mott’s ideals and embrace that spirit once again.

The University of Michigan-Flint was made possible by the tenacity and dedication of Mott and a small group of civic leaders who believed in the power of establishing a first-rate educational institution connected to the University of Michigan. The results of their efforts to bring UM-Flint to fruition are impressive. Today, the university is an economic driver in the region. In 2019, UM-Flint was one of the largest employers in Genesee County, spending more than $58 million in the county in the form of payroll, purchases and funds released to students. Of that figure, 49 percent of the university’s total annual spending stays in Genesee County, having a major impact on the local economy.

At UM-Flint, we honor Mott’s indomitable spirit by taking action, educating the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, and shaping the future of this region. The Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, created with the support of community leaders Phil and Jocelyn Hagerman and the Hagerman Foundation, is a place where faculty and students are focused on the future. Through activities such as the annual Zillion Solutions event where students share their cutting-edge ideas, to hosting high school students at the Entrepreneurship Institute each summer, UM-Flint is preparing its students to be positive agents of bold initiatives for change.

Now, UM-Flint is embarking on a new endeavor. It is called Project 2020.

Project 2020 is about big ideas. One of those ideas is launching a School of Technology within the next two years with a curriculum that will foster innovation and creativity needed to boost startups. This strategic move will increase enrollment and bring more students to Flint creating the talent pool for attracting new companies. Project 2020 activities will make Flint a central gathering place by hosting national conferences and events that will benefit local businesses and enrich the social fabric of the region. The benefits of Project 2020 will reverberate across the community.

The city and campus are Mott’s legacy. We must continue to honor his life’s work, and the work of many others by embracing our entrepreneurial spirit for the greater good.

Photo credit: Scott Soderberg, U-M Photography