Joseph M. Colucci (BS Mech Egr ’58) received the Donald W. Ableson Award for Visionary Leadership from SAE International on May 16, 2012, during the SAE Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Celebration at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. He was recognized for his leadership within the SAE Foundation and for his significant contributions to improving STEM education and advancing the SAE mission.
Colucci, a world-recognized expert and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, is president of Automotive Fuels Consulting, Inc., of Clarkston, Mich. Previously, Colucci was executive director, Materials Research, at GM R&D. Prior to that he had been department head, Fuels And Lubricants, leading GM's efforts to improve commercial fuel and lubricant quality for better vehicle performance and reduced vehicle emissions.
He was a member of the SAE Board of Directors and the Foundation Board of Trustees and is a fellow of SAE. In 2010 he received the SAE Medal of Honor, and he has been inducted into his high school Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Michigan State University College of Engineering Alumni Association Board and received the college's highest distinction, the Claud R. Erickson Award, in 2003.
In addition to receiving his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from MSU in 1958, he also earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1959.
The SAE Foundation’s awards program booklet describes Colucci as “an outspoken visionary and a doer, on a personal mission to make things better.” Talk to him about his 36-year career with General Motors and he'll energetically run through the building blocks it took to constantly and consistently improve the fuels and lubricants powering GM's and the world's vehicles. Ask him about his involvement with SAE and he talks with both passion and pride about the changes he helped to instill over time to improve SAE.
"I really believe in the importance of education, and not just talking about it," he says. Years ago, Colucci pushed for better SAE technical paper quality and scheduling, and for a smoke-free environment at SAE meetings. He organized and led an SAE Foundation fundraiser among the SAE fellows to support student education, and he initiated and led a study to determine the effectiveness of the "A World in Motion" program.
He was one of the founders of the organization's first broad-based capital campaign, which raised $26 million for SAE's STEM student education curricula. He credits success to the talented teams with which he worked at GM's Research Laboratories. He fondly remembers that employees in his organization "won more SAE awards and had more fellows than any other organization. I believe in recognizing people for their hard work. I still have great pride in the people and knowing we made a difference,” he says, especially regarding the improvements in engine performance and reduced emissions via the reformulated gasoline he helped develop.
When asked what advice he would give to a 12-year-old, Colucci laughs heartily and says, "I'd tell them the same thing I tell my grandkids . . . you won't learn anything taking easy classes. You don't learn from easy things . . . you learn from making mistakes. If a teacher makes it hard, you'll learn more. You'll look back years later and remember that your teacher was a great teacher.”
About the Ableson Award: Recipients must have more than 20 years of service to the mobility community and have made notable contributions while serving as a leader for more than 3 years of the SAE organization, including the SAE Foundation Board or the SAE Foundation Canada Board of Directors. Recipients must also have made significant contributions in improving STEM education and have led at least one initiative resulting in advancements of the Foundation's mission. The award was created by Don W. Ableson, a past president of SAE and past chair of the SAE Foundation Board of Trustees.