Staying on Course: One WSU history alum's journey

Staying on Course: One WSU history alum's journey

Staying on Course: One WSU history alum's journey

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“I never wavered in terms of wanting to be a lawyer,” recalled Wayne State alumnus John Gasparovic, B.A. ’79. And as for attending Wayne State University, the choice “was actually pretty simple.” 

John Gasparovic is currently the vice president and general counsel of BorgWarner, a leading global auto parts manufacturer and supplier. His academic career at Wayne State began right after high school, where he had developed a love for history. 

“I actually became a history major at Wayne State for two reasons,” he said. “One: I loved history. It was by far my favorite subject in high school so that was an easy choice. I also had in mind when I started at Wayne State that I was eventually going to go to law school, and I thought history would be a very good preparation for that.”  

The metro Detroit native did not come from a wealthy family, but he did come from one that expected him to attend college. When it was time to apply, he chose the three largest schools in the state: Wayne State, Michigan State and the University of Michigan. He was accepted to all three, but when Wayne State offered him an academic scholarship coming to Wayne State became a “simple choice to make.” 

Although Gasparovic’s academic expenses were covered, he decided to work during his time at Wayne State and live at home to save money. “I was a full-time student and, between all the jobs I had, I was almost a full-time worker,” he chuckled, recalling what his life and schedule were like back then. “I had really long days; let’s just put it that way.” His long days, however, did not stifle his social life. He was able to develop a group of friends on campus, and he even managed to participate in various activities during the day.   

As his college career progressed, Gasparovic never lost his focus. He kept himself immersed in a culture and environment that reinforced his career goals. In fact, one of his jobs was at a downtown Detroit law firm. His purposefulness and confidence in his academic decisions made him unique among his peers, as he never really had any doubts about the direction he was going.  

“I recognize that that was kind of an unusual experience compared to most people,” he said. “Most people go through school or a large part of their undergraduate career not really having any idea what they want to do when they leave school. That is pretty common. Watching some of my friends, and watching some of the people I knew at Wayne State, I think their experience kind of helped shape what they ended up doing.” Although Gasparovic did not fault his friends’ experience, his experience was altogether different.  

He graduated from Wayne State and went on to Northwestern University School of Law. Upon graduation, he was offered a job at one of the largest law firms in the world, Jones Day. Working as a commercial litigator, Gasparovic stayed with the firm for about eight years before being recruited by Guardian Industries, a leading glass manufacturer in metro Detroit. It was there that Gasparovic was introduced to the automotive industry, the industry he works in today. After staying with Guardian for 10 years, Gasparovic, with his general counsel expertise, moved again: first to Roadway second to Federal-Mogul and finally to BorgWarner. 

Looking back, Gasparovic believes he received “a good and well-rounded education that has stood the test of time.” He advises current students to try to get as well-rounded of an education as they can and take classes they’re interested in.  

“Be concerned about whether you’re going to be employed when you graduate, but don’t view your education as solely, ‘I’m preparing to get a job,’” he said. “You’re really preparing yourself to live your life.”

By Danielle Underwood, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Development Writer