John Engler, Interim President, Michigan State University

Board Member, Corporate

John Engler is interim president of the Michigan State University and the retired president of the Business Roundtable (BRT), an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. corporations with a combined workforce of nearly 16 million workers and more than $7 trillion in annual revenues.  A former three-term governor of Michigan, Engler assumed the leadership of Business Roundtable in January 2011 after serving six years as president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.  

Through landmark reports, “Roadmap for Growth,” (2010) “Taking Action for America: A CEO Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth,” (2012) and “It’s Time to Act for America’s Future,” (2013) Business Roundtable and Engler promote policies to enhance U.S. global economic leadership, including a restructuring of the nation’s system of taxation to broaden and lower corporate tax rates and move to a competitive territorial tax system.  Under Engler, BRT has also emerged as a preeminent voice for regulatory restraint and transparency. Thanks to BRT-led litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the Security and Exchange Commission’s “proxy access” rule that would have put arbitrary limits on company management. The court agreed with BRT’s arguments that the commission has failed to do economic analysis as required by law.

BRT CEOs’ advocacy also helped persuade President Obama to withdraw an overreaching regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency on ground-level ozone that would have been the most expensive regulation in U.S. history, inhibiting investment and hiring. BRT has also put forth detailed plans for streamlining federal regulation and permitting in two reports, “Achieving Smarter Regulations” (2011) and “Permitting Jobs and Business Investment: Streamlining the Federal Permitting Process (2012).”

Engler came to BRT after heading the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) since 2004. As NAM president, he was the leading advocate for the nearly 12 million Americans employed directly in manufacturing, educating the public and policymakers on issues affecting this critical sector of the U.S. economy.  Throughout his leadership at both the NAM and Business Roundtable, Mr. Engler has been heavily engaged in education and workforce issues, identifying the pressing shortage of skilled employees as a growing threat to American competitiveness in the 21st Century’s high-tech global economy. During Engler’s tenure as the 46th governor of Michigan from 1991 to 2003, he signed 32 tax cuts into law – saving Michigan taxpayers some $32 billion – and helped create more than 800,000 new jobs, taking the state’s unemployment rate to a record low. The top priority of his administration was improving education, with a focus on high standards, equity and accountability. Syndicated columnist David Broder summarized Engler’s service as governor as a “model of strong, executive leadership.”

He had previously served for 20 years in the Michigan Legislature, including seven years as state Senate majority leader. Elected in 1970, Engler was the youngest person ever elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives. In 1990, he became the first sitting legislator elected Michigan governor in more than 100 years.  Engler serves on the board of directors for Universal Forest Products, K12 Inc., and the Annie E. Casey Foundation and is a past chairman of the National Governors’ Association. The American Academy of Arts and Science has named him a member of the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. Born in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., in 1948, Engler graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor of science in agricultural economics. Later, he earned a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich. He and his wife, Michelle, are parents of triplet daughters born in 1994 – Margaret, Hannah and Madeleine – and live in Virginia.