Department of Mechanical Engineering

Randall Stephens named Distinguished Mechanical Engineering Alumnus

Mechanical Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award


Randall Stephens, BS ’85, Mechanical Engineering

Randall Stephens is a chief engineer in the product development office at Toyota Technical Center (TTC), located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. TTC, Toyota’s North American R&D center, is a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing, North America, Inc. (TEMA).

Randy joined TTC in 1992 as a design engineer in chassis design, responsible for trucks and passenger cars. In 2000, he moved to vehicle engineering as a program manager, where he was a member of the 2002 Camry project team. In 2001, he was appointed as the 2002 Avalon’s executive program manager. In this role, he was responsible for Avalon’s overall design and engineering development for TTC.

He was then asked to start a new team to develop the 2005 Avalon. Three years later, Randy and another MSU alumnus, Greg Bernas, were named the first two Toyota chief engineers, ever, outside of Japan. The two spent most of the next year refining the company in the United States and developing new methods of vehicle design. Randy then started the 2013 Toyota Avalon project; the model was just launched at the company’s Kentucky plant.

He began his automotive engineering career at Motor Wheel Corp., serving from 1985-1989 first as a design engineer responsible for passenger car wheels, then as a manufacturing engineer for passenger car brakes. From 1989-1992, he worked for Mazda Motor Mfg., USA, as an engineer, where he was responsible for supplier manufacturing processes, including machining and stamping.

He has traveled extensively to all parts of Japan. And in the Middle East, he has visited Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi). 

Randy, currently a member of SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers), says that the practical teaching methods and analytical education he received at MSU prepared him for just about any industry.  He especially remembers professor Ron Rosenberg. “He made learning fun and was careful to make sure that all students learned the fundamentals of mechanical engineering,” Randy recalls.

Randy has been involved with Habitat for Humanity, Ennis Center, Pittsfield Township Parks, and the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor Public Schools.

He and his wife, Annie, reside in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She is a special education elementary school teacher at Lincoln Consolidated Schools. They have three daughters. Nikki is a hair stylist at Douglas J. in Ann Arbor; Kristina is a senior at Lincoln schools and a bassist in her rock band; and Kareena is a freshman at Lincoln schools. Kristina and Kareena are both involved in horseback riding and jumping.

The family enjoys spending time together and traveling on vacation. Their next planned trip is to New York City; Randy says he is looking forward to taking the girls to Times Square and Broadway.