Kettering University education inspired graduate to make a difference

Karl Oskoian, Executive Director of the Sterling Heights Area Community Foundation, has transitioned through his career from an engineer to central office and after he “retired” to the world of philanthropy.

A love for the automotive industry brought Karl Oskoian ‘74 to Kettering, but it was his passion for people and making a difference that he took with him throughout his career.

Oskoian, Executive Director of the Sterling Heights Area Community Foundation, has transitioned through his career from an engineer to central office and field sales to program managers to manager of marketing communications and public affairs, and after he “retired” to the world of philanthropy.

Through it all he’s learned the importance of working with people.

“I’ve learned the importance of being able to work with people toward the accomplishment of any objective. Adherence to a set of core values that create and build trust and integrity,” Oskoian said. “Satisfaction is derived from continually striving to give back to the communities that you live and work in. Success is best measured and defined by your own criteria.”

Oskoian studied Industrial Administration at Kettering, then General Motors Institute. He worked at General Motors - Cadillac Motor Car Division from 1969 to 1978, followed by four years at Chrysler Corporation - Service and Parts Division.

Then from 1982 until he retired in 2013, Oskoian worked for General Dynamics Corporation. At the time he retired he was manager of Marketing Communications and Public Affairs. He also served as President and CEO of the Sterling Heights Community Foundation for 23 years, from 1993 through 2015, and now serves as the Foundation’s Executive Director.

“My personality and strong communications skills drew me to the field of public relations and philanthropy. I enjoy the continuous challenges of addressing issues and needs,” Oskoian said. “I am proud of helping to improve the quality of life of citizens and making our communities a better place to live, work, raise a family and conduct business.”

Oskoian also chose to keep community service an important part of his life throughout the years. He served on the boards of many non-profit organizations, including the Warren, Center Line, Sterling Heights Chamber of Commerce, Warren Family YMCA, American Heart Association's West Central Macomb Region, the Macomb Symphony Orchestra and the Macomb Foundation.

He has also served on the business contributions committee of the Greater Detroit Area Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Michigan Foundations. He served as the Greater Michigan Armed Forces Week Steering Committee Chair four years and as a member of the Detroit Tigers Youth Baseball Advisory Committee.

Oskoian has been honored with Macomb County’s Patron of the Arts Award and a State of Michigan Proclamation for Support of the Arts.

He has also received numerous industry and community awards including both Congressional and State of Michigan recognition for his dedicated service and accomplishments in the City of Sterling Heights, Michigan. He received defense industry Teamwork and Integration Awards from the Boeing Company for his work on the Defense Industry’s Future Combat Systems Team. The United States Marine Corps recognized him in for his work on the dedication of the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Kettering was a great fit for Oskoian when it was time to choose a college. His father worked in the automotive industry for Chrysler and he had a friend who graduated from Kettering.

He knew Kettering would prepare him for a successful and meaningful career in whatever he ended up working in.

“I loved the auto industry and learned through my father that Kettering (then GMI) was the ‘Harvard’ of cooperative college programs and the alma matter of scores of auto industry leaders and it was an easy decision to aspire to follow their path,” Oskoian said. “I chose the Industrial Administration curriculum because of the broad education it offered in administration, management and manufacturing. I felt that this program would prepare me well for a leadership career in any industry.”

Oskoian’s proudest Kettering moments are that his children - Courtney Oskoian ‘11, Cameron Oskoian ‘13 and Christopher Oskoian ‘15 - decided to follow suit and attend Kettering, as well.

“All developed and exercised strong leadership skills and learned the importance of volunteering and giving back to the organizations and communities that they were involved in for the greater good of the entire Kettering community,” he said. “These traits are serving them well today.”

Oskoian said he also learned some very valuable lessons during his time at Kettering.

“ I learned the value of hard-work, hands-on experience, persistence and continually challenging yourself to be your best. I learned the importance of making the most of your capabilities and opportunities,” he said.

His advice to current Kettering students is simple: Keep the momentum that they gained at Kettering.

“They have already made the smartest decision of their young lives to attend Kettering University and now simply need to follow their goals. They are well prepared and ready to make the world a better place, in any field they choose,” Oskoian said.