U-M names ex-furniture exec interim athletic director


James Hackett. Courtesy Steelcase

The former top executive at a local office furniture maker has been named the interim athletic director at the University of Michigan.

U-M athletics

The appointment of ex-Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett was made by U-M President Mark Schlissel in a press conference this afternoon, following the resignation of Dave Brandon. The move will be voted on at the university’s next board of regents meeting.

Schlissel said he and Hackett will work together to find the next permanent athletic director, as Hackett’s tenure will only be temporary. There is no timeframe for the search, however, as Schlissel said they'll take as long as necessary.

“We've yet to move forward and define a more specific job description, and we will,” Schlissel said.

Hackett said he's “humbled to help.”

The athletic director change comes in the midst of another down year for the U-M football team. Schlissel said Hackett will be able to evaluate the football program while the school operates without a permanent athletic director in place.

U-M connection

Hackett is a 1977 graduate of U-M, where he played football under coach Bo Schembechler.

He also sits on two boards at U-M: at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the Life Sciences Institute.

Steelcase tenure

Hackett joined Grand Rapids-based Steelcase in 1981 and rose through the ranks to CEO in 1994.

He retired in February, following a tenure that saw a re-organization of the company, shedding more than 10,000 jobs. He helped expand Steelcase’s education and health care concepts and the idea of making workplaces more effective.

Hackett was integral in the development of Steelcase as a global company.

He's currently serving as vice chairman on the company’s board.


Hackett is also a member of the board at Ford Motor Company, Northwestern Mutual Life and Fifth Third Bancorp.

In December, he received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Michigan State University.

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