Berwyn Native Calls It a Career After 44 Years of Innovative Design at G.M.

Photo of Ed Welburn courtesy of John F. Martin, General Motors.

gmBerwyn native Ed Welburn – who has spent 44 years at his dream job, designing cars at General Motors – has decided it’s time to hang up his hat and retire, writes Sonari Glinton for National Public Radio.

A lover of cars since the age of three, Welburn, G.M.’s global head of design, found his destiny when his parents took him to the Philadelphia Auto Show, where he encountered a Cadillac Cyclone.

“I saw that car, and that car took me from being crazy about cars to this is it! This is what I want to do,” he said.

By age 11, Welburn’s passion had grown so strong that he wrote a letter to G.M., asking them what steps he needed to take in order to fulfill his dream. G.M.’s head of personnel wrote back, and provided brochures of top design schools and other helpful advice.

Photo of Ed Welburn as an intern at General Motors in 1971 courtesy of G.M.
Photo of Ed Welburn as an intern at General Motors in 1971 courtesy of G.M.

Welburn’s enthusiasm, however, soon met a roadblock. He was a young black man in the 1960s, which meant getting into a good design school was not that simple. Howard University stepped up, and created a car design program just for Welburn.

From there, he got an internship at G.M., and the rest is history. Welburn went on to conceptualize the designs for many iconic cars, including the Corvette, Escalade, Saturn, and the Volt.

His vision, even from his early years at G.M. was simple: Know what you want, collaborate with other departments, and design for the customer, not for you.

“We always state about being twice as good,” said Glenda Gill, Automotive Consultant. “Just know that Welburn was three times as good in his industry, and well respected, and was a mentor to many.”

Read more about Ed Welburn at National Public Radio here.

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