Joe Cooley

College of Engineering & Business

Joseph cooley '64

ReTIRED VICE PRESIDENT of sales and marketing• GST AutoLeather, China
Bachelor of Science, Business administration & Financial Management

Forever on the go, be it to visit with his Delta Sigma Phi brothers or consulting with firms doing business in Asia or other parts of the world, Joseph Cooley has not slowed down even after his retirement in 2009. Following graduation in 1964, Cooley served in the U.S. Army Reserve and began his career in the automotive industry in 1965, at the Chevrolet Motor Division in his hometown of Buffalo, NY. 

Cooley was employed at General Motors (GM) and launched into international business in South Africa in 1967. He then went to GM Thailand in 1975 and was based in Bangkok for three years before heading to GM in Caracas, Venezuela.

Having moved from Finance into Sales & Marketing during his early days, he returned to South Africa in 1979, opening a new GMSA Executive Office in Johannesburg where he was in charge of Sales. It was then that Cooley made a significant decision, to recruit and appoint the first African GM auto dealer in South Africa during apartheid. 

By 1981, the Cooley family had grown and returned to the United States. They settled in Flint, MI, where Cooley was hired by GM Truck and Bus. Then an executive recruiter offered him a senior Sales and Marketing position at Alfa Romeo, North America. Once again, an executive search company introduced Cooley to Garden State Tanning (GST), a leading producer of automotive seating leather. In 1992, he became GST’s Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing in New York City. 

In 2004, Cooley relocated to Shanghai and GST China was formed. Over the next five years, GST business in China grew to just short of $100 million annually, as the country became the largest vehicle producer. 

Cooley retired in 2009 from GST but continued consultant work for another year. He currently consults for a Midwest auto component manufacturer, helping to expand the company’s global footprint. 

Over the past 30 years, Cooley has continued activities with fellow Delta Sig brothers to support Gannon and keep the University’s oldest fraternity moving forward. 

Joe and his wife, Rosemary, an accomplished and collected artist and teacher, now reside on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, in St. Michaels. They have two grown sons, Sean and Brian.

(published Sept. 2019)
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