BE THE FIRST, BUT NEVER THE LAST

August 01, 2021
Roy Roberts knows the importance of education. His widowed father stressed it to his 10 children. Born in Arkansas, Roy also knows about segregation, prejudice, diversity, inclusion, blazing trails, and climbing corporate ladders. He was one of 6 Blacks in a school of 500 Whites. By the time he reached college, he was married with children. That didn’t stop him; it probably motivated him even more. His buddies (some pretty famous Detroiters that will go unnamed) were also at Western Michigan University enjoying the spoils of college life, but not Roy. He studied, worked full-time as an assembly worker at Lear Siegler, commuted from Grand Rapids, and kept his eyes on the prize. Roy said at a young age he wanted nice things and knew stealing wasn’t an option (he’s very funny).
After graduating, he worked for Lear Siegler as the Director of Marketing. When General Motors (GM) heard about this young kid named Roy Roberts, they came calling. The rest is history. At GM, he would retire in 2000 as Group Vice-President, North American Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing after 30+ years, overseeing 2 million employees globally. “Discrimination rolled off my back like a duck,” he said. In his early years at GM, he was elevated quickly, starting in Employment and Training, heading up Personnel and supervising all the plants. Eventually, he moved to Rochester, New York to run the Products Division. When he quit GM to go to Navistar, GM wooed him back to Detroit where he would finish out his stellar 30-year journey.
He’s had some heartache along the way: losing his mother at age 2, his father, his siblings, and his firstborn son, but he’s always counting his blessings and leaving open doors for those behind him. His loving wife Maureen is a retired nurse, as well as a health care professional and educator. She is a huge champion of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation and the children we represent. The Roberts are loyal supporters with a scholarship in their names. In 2011, Roy was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to serve as Emergency Financial Manager over Detroit Public Schools. He says it was the toughest job he’s ever had, but the most gratifying.
His motto is: ‘To win, you have to be yourself. Be honest and stay true to yourself. (Cow manure) will kill you. If you don’t do the right thing, then don’t do it’.
Roy is retired these days, enjoying his lovely wife, playing with grandchildren, traveling, seeing friends, and still counting his many blessings. On Detroit’s evolution and gentrification, Roy says that “Detroit is very unique and not in a bad way.”
We must care about the children of Detroit. All of us.” He says his social circle and the friends he’s made in Detroit have made the difference.
Roy and Maureen Roberts love Detroit and we love them!

Please help leverage their wonderful support by donating today to the Detroit College Promise Scholarship Fund by clicking here.

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