History will mark James Roche as the president of General Motors when GM spied on Ralph Nader in 1966. Roche denied knowing about it. Still, pundits may long debate how much GM -- under Roche and CEO Fred Donner -- triggered the years of heavy regulation that followed.
Roche died June 6 at age 97. Any measure of his tenure as president and later CEO should look at a broader picture. He led GM with dignity during difficult times. He also pioneered efforts that are mainstream today: employee-assistance programs, a diversified board of directors and the monitoring of corporate governance.