Alumnus Joe Matthews Setting an Example for Diversity & Inclusion

Monday, February 11, 2019
Joe Matthews

Electrical engineering alumnus Joe Matthews is leading diversity and inclusion efforts as the first diversity officer for Michigan-based Gentex Corporation. This adds to his responsibilities as vice president of purchasing.

Alumnus Joe Matthews knows quite well that diversity and inclusion are building blocks that strengthen an organization.

The Gary, Ind., native was the only African-American student in Rose-Hulman’s Class of 1991. He was also a minority while living in Japan as a member of the Engineering Alliance for Global Leaders in Education (E.A.G.L.E.) program at Delphi Technologies (formerly Delco Electronics).

Matthews, an electrical engineering alumnus, says, “I always reached out to build bridges with others, no matter our cultural differences. People accepted me for who I was as a person and the skill level I brought to any situation, not my racial background. People look at race and gender as part of diversity, but it is much more than that.”

The electrical engineering graduate has carried that guiding principle into becoming the first diversity officer for Michigan-based Gentex Corporation, in addition to his duties as vice president of purchasing. Gentex is the leading-edge provider of technology for digital vision, connected automotive, dimmable glass and fire protection.

In this new role, Matthews is in charge of developing and implementing Gentex’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives. He also will provide leadership to the new DE&I Council, a group that comprises members from various levels and corporate functions throughout the company.

The DE&I Council’s primary role is to help implement diversity programs, training courses and awareness initiatives throughout the organization. It also supports the human resources department in recruiting and community engagement. Matthews will help guide additional internal business resource groups, such as Women at Gentex, which champions and supports women in the workplace for a growing company with approximately 5,500 employees.

Gentex president and chief executive officer Steve Downing says, “Joe’s background and passions make him uniquely suited for this new role.”

Matthews has been part of Gentex’s purchasing department since 2010, serving as vice president of purchasing for the past four years. He gained extensive experience in purchasing and supply management through positions with Whirlpool Corporation (2003 to 2008) and Delphi Technologies (1991 to 2003), where he was nominated as the company’s Black Engineer of the Year.

Matthews was a General Motors Fellow after graduating with cum laude academic honors. He received the Alumni Association’s Career Achievement Award in 2011.

He says, “Having grown up in Gary and attending a predominantly black high school, I had culture shock coming to Rose-Hulman and Terre Haute. Although there were other blacks on campus that were upperclassmen, I was the only one in my class. The Sophomore Advisors and Resident Assistant in my residence hall helped me immensely in getting through that first year. They made me feel like I belonged even when I struggled with my classes.”

Matthew adds, “In fact, throughout my academic career, I was never turned away by any professor in getting additional tutoring, despite how clueless I might have appeared. The lasting impact of these experiences was the development of a quiet, yet persistent, strength in my character that I can go into an unknown, and perhaps difficult, situation with people who are different than me and achieve.”