DETROIT - William Cunningham, 67, founder of the Center for Advanced Technologies, a learning center and automotive supplier, died Monday, May 26, of gallbladder cancer.
A Roman Catholic priest whose vision went beyond his religion, Cunningham was a force in the Detroit automotive scene. He recruited industry executives and personnel to help his crusade to train inner-city youth for manufacturing jobs.
Starting in the mid-1980s, Cunningham launched programs such as Fast Track, a seven-week 'boot camp' to prepare students for his Machinist Training Institute, a year-long, full-time tooling school.
In 1993, Cunningham wooed former General Motors President Lloyd Reuss to head the Center for Advanced Technologies. The center is set in an old Ford Motor Co. engine plant. Students there are paid to work 40 hours a week as Tier 1 suppliers to the Big 3 while studying to earn associates', bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering.
Reuss called Cunningham 'the most influential leader in Southeast Michigan in the past 25 years.' Reuss said Cunningham was respected by top auto executives who saw Cunningham as a 'no-nonsense leader' who 'demanded accountability' of his students.