When Paul Eichenberg graduated from Reed City High School in 1988 and enrolled at nearby Ferris State University, he had no idea he one day would be a vice president for a $6 billion manufacturer for the global automotive industry.
The small-town boy who had never left Northern Michigan credits his time spent at Ferris as the catalyst for a career that has led to worldwide travel and his post as global vice president for Corporate Development and Strategic Planning at Magna International/Magna Powertrain, Inc.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be where I am today,” said Eichenberg, who graduated in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in Plastics Engineering. “Ferris opened the door a crack and gave me the opportunity to make of it what I wanted.”
Now, his appointment to The Ferris Foundation Board of Directors is giving him the opportunity to “give back to the place that gave me so much,” he said.
“I can’t say enough about my education at Ferris,” said Eichenberg, who joined the nationally recognized debate team and Student Government. His involvement led to work with a university lobbyist under then-president Helen Popovich as a student spokesperson in Lansing.
“That experience combined with classroom lessons was uniquely beneficial,” he said. “To be put under that kind of pressure at that age … now, I can go toe to toe with anyone. I learned that people are people.”
Eichenberg’s professional career began as an engineer at Excel Industries, a global leader in window systems and door module manufacturing for the automotive industry. He quickly moved into sales and sales management roles, and after Excel’s merger with Dura Automotive in 1998, he became responsible for all North American sales to Ford Motor Company.
He was recruited to PPG Industries, a Fortune 200 company and global manufacturer of glass and paint products, in 1999 to focus on market development, strategic planning, and mergers and acquisitions.
Eichenberg joined Magna International in 2004 as director of Business Development and Marketing for the Magna Donnelly Engineered Glass business. He was charged with developing and implementing a turnaround strategy focused on innovative new products to drive future growth, which he accomplished through extensive negotiations to acquire new technologies, develop strategic alliances and restructure existing joint ventures.
A year later, Eichenberg was named director of Product Development and Marketing for the business unit, leading its design, engineering, development and marketing efforts, and in May 2006, he became vice president of Corporate Development for Magna Powertrain, North and South America, overseeing all strategic planning, merger and acquisition activities and new market development for the $3 billion manufacturer.
In his current role as global vice president of Corporate Development and Strategic Planning for Magna International/Magna Powertrain, Eichenberg’s initiatives have strengthened the company’s position in new markets in Asia, Europe and in North and South America.
“Magna is one of the 400 largest companies in the world,” said Eichenberg, who travels to Europe or Asia “on a very frequent basis.” “I am so high on my experience at Ferris, because it opened the world to me. I learned that I can do anything.”
Over the course of his career, Eichenberg continued his education, earning a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Detroit Mercy and completing post graduate work at Oxford University in Oxford, England; the Institute of Higher Business Studies in Barcelona, Spain; Penn State University, Michigan State University, the universities of Notre Dame and Michigan, and Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
He believes his experience and strategic investment knowledge will prove beneficial as a member of The Ferris Foundation board.
“I strongly believe in giving back – showing respect – to the organization that gave me so much,” he said. “I want to make a contribution.”
“This is a pinnacle moment for the board and Ferris with strategic fundraising initiatives and collaborative efforts such as the renovation and rejuvenation of the historic Federal Building (as part of Ferris’ Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids),” said Carla Miller, executive director of The Ferris Foundation. “Paul’s experience with strategic planning at a global level is a great asset for the university and will help drive Ferris’ growth.”
Eichenberg lives in Novi, Mich. with his wife, Mindy, an elementary school teacher, and their 10-month-old son, Samuel.
Since it was established in 1991 to address the need for a long-range fundraising program to provide opportunities for students, The Ferris Foundation has increased endowment funds to more than $35 million. It is governed by the board of directors, whose members are appointed for three-year terms.
“I am honored to announce the addition of Paul Eichenberg to the board. It has been this board’s goal, as guided by President Eisler, to recruit some of the top graduates of Ferris State University to help guide our progress into the future,” said board chair Kevin J. Cross. “Paul brings dynamic skills that have catapulted him to Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategic Planning in one of the largest auto companies in the world, Magna Powertrain. We look forward to tapping those talents to help our board achieve its lofty goals in the next three years and beyond.”