Sergio Marchionne, visionary who saved Fiat, studied philosophy at U of T

Published: August 23, 2018

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Italian-Canadian auto industry pioneer Sergio Marchionne, who died on July 25, 2018 from complications after shoulder surgery, had a history as a philosopher in our department and hailed the eye-opening aspects of philosophical studies.

Mr. Marchionne was born in Italy in 1952 and moved to Toronto in 1966. He was an undergraduate student in philosophy in our department in the early to mid-1970s, and also went on to earn a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, and commerce and MBA degrees from the University of Windsor.

Throughout his long career in business, which included specialization in the auto industry, his most marked achievement was the resuscitation of the troubled Fiat company after he took over as CEO in 2004. He eventually built Fiat up to be a strong enough organization that it was able to save the dwindling fortunes of Chrysler during the Great Recession. Now known as Fiat Chrysler, the company is healthy and profitable.

Mr. Marchionne’s speeches at business meetings and company events often included references to philosophers and thinkers. The Globe and Mail reports that when he spoke to the annual Automotive News World Congress in 2009, Mr. Marchionne’s speech quoted Mark Twain, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Karl Popper.

Mr. Marchionne credited his study of philosophy as something that stimulated his unconventional and creative thinking.

“I can’t say if philosophy made me a better lawyer back then or if it makes me a better CEO today,” he told the 2011 graduating class at the University of Toledo. “But it did open my eyes and my mind to other things.”

We’re very proud to have had Mr. Marchionne as a student in our department. He’s one of our many alumni making waves globally in the worlds of art, commerce, and research.

Read Mr. Marchionne’s obituary at The Globe and Mail