Donald (Don) W. Ableson Receives the 2005 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Medal of Honor
Warrendale, PA, May 23, 2005 - Don Ableson, Executive Director, North American Specialty Vehicle Activity, General Motors Corporation (retired) was selected to receive the 2005 SAE Medal of Honor. He was presented with the award during the Honors Convocation Luncheon on April 12 at the SAE 2005 World Congress in Detroit, Michigan.
Established, in 1986, the SAE Medal of Honor recognizes and honors a living SAE member for unique and significant contributions to the Society. Unlike other SAE awards that honor technical achievements or outstanding accomplishments in the various fields of mobility, this award recognizes an individual's contributions to the overall SAE organization.
Ableson retired from General Motors in 2002. He spent his entire career at General Motors, beginning as a student in 1955 with the Fisher Body Division, while attending General Motors Institute (now Kettering University). After graduation, he joined the Works Engineering Activity of Fisher Body Division. He held several positions at Fisher over the next twenty years, including Engineer in Charge; he directed the construction of new vehicle assembly plants in North America, South America and Europe, as well as the modernization and expansion of nearly every General Motors vehicle assembly plant and several parts fabricating plants. In 1979, he was named General Superintendent of the Livonia Trim Fabrication Plant in metropolitan Detroit, heading a team of over 3,000 people. In 1980, he was appointed General Superintendent of Manufacturing Engineering at Pontiac Motor Division, responsible for the development of all plant facilities and equipment to produce the new 1984 Fiero. In 1985, he was named Plant Manager of the Pontiac "G" Assembly Plant, responsible for restoring a "mothballed" plant to full-speed capacity of over 1300 vehicles per day. In 1986, he took on additional responsibilities as Plant Manager for the Pontiac Metal Fabrication and Axle Plants. In 1987, he became Plant Manager of the Tarrytown Assembly Plant in New York, responsible for converting the plant to production of the new 1989 plastic-bodied minivan. In 1990, he returned to Michigan as Program Manager of the Minivan Program; and subsequently, in 1993, he became Program Manager of International Vehicle Programs; in 1996 Program Manager of the Cadillac Commercial Vehicle Programs; and then Director of Specialty Vehicles in 1997. Prior to his retirement in 2002, he was responsible for development of Z-71 Chevrolet trucks, Cadillac limousines, government parade limousines, entertainment vans, and many others.
An active member of the Society of Automotive Engineers for more than 40 years, he is currently President of the SAE Canada Foundation Board of Directors; Chairman of the annual SAE Foundation Banquet; Co-Chair of the SAE 100th Anniversary Committee; Chairman of the Foundation Centennial Campaign Committee; member of the Ed Cole and Heinz Prechter Awards Boards; and member of the Detroit Section Finance Committee. Ableson was President of SAE International in 1999; and has served as Chairman of the SAE Foundation; Finance Committee; Strategic Planning Committee; Blue Ribbon Panel; Facilities Committee; Detroit Section; and Sections Board. He has also served as a member of the SAE Board of Directors. Ableson was elected to the Yellowstone National Park Association Board of Trustees in 2002 and has been involved in many community activities over the years.
Ableson holds a BS in industrial engineering from GMI and a Master's in Business Administration from Michigan State University. He and his wife Muriel reside on Walnut Lake in Michigan and spend as much time as possible at their condo in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. They have four married children and seven grandchildren.