Frederic G. Donner Papers: 1921-1983 (Majority of material found within 1955-1972)
Summary Information
Title: Frederic G. Donner Papers
Creator: Donner, Frederic G. (Frederic Garrett), 1902-1987
Dates: 1921-1983 (Majority of material found within 1955-1972)
Extent: 0.75 linear feet, 1 oversize folder
Automobile executive, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of General Motors, 1958-1967; Biographical Material, Addresses, Writings, Savings-Stock Purchase Program, and Photographs.
Call number: 88369 Aa 2
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
Home Page:
Finding aid prepared by: Marian J. Matyn, June 1988 and Thomas E. Powers, January 1990

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection was donated by the General Motors Corporation (Donor no. 1508), and Mrs. Eileen Donner Vincent (Donor no. 7562).

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see:


Donor(s) have not transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., Frederic G. Donner Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Frederic G. Donner was born October 4, 1902 in Three Oaks, Michigan. He was educated at the University of Michigan, where in 1923 he received his bachelor of arts degree majoring in economics.

Upon graduation, Mr. Donner went to work for the Chicago accounting firm of Reckitt, Benington and LeClear. Then, in March 1926, he became an accountant with the Financial Staff of the General Motors Corporation in New York, and thus began his fifty-year career with the largest of the automobile companies. Mr. Donner's advancement within General Motors was steady and noteworthy. In 1934, he was elected assistant treasurer, and in 1937, he was made general assistant treasurer. In 1941, he was elected vice president in charge of the Financial Staff. On this same date, he was also appointed to the Administration Committee, and on January 5, 1942, he was made a member of the Board of Directors. On April 2, 1956, Mr. Donner was made executive vice president and chairman of the Financial Policy Committee. On September 1, 1958, he was appointed chairman of the board and chief executive officer of General Motors, positions which he held until November 1, 1967. In his retirement, until May 1974, Mr. Donner continued to serve as member of the GM Board of Directors and of the company's Finance Committee.

During his career at GM, Mr. Donner was involved in many and varied company programs. During the 1930s, he participated in studies designed to improve dealer relations policies. Subsequently, he involved himself in marketing practice and policy. During World War II, he supervised the preparation of reports to the Price Adjustment Board of the U.S. War Department; while after the war, he concerned himself with problems of reconversion, modernization, and expansion. In 1955, he initiated the Savings-Stock Purchase Program for Salaried Employees. This program was but one reflection of Mr. Donner's interest in the planning and development of employee benefit and protection plans, and in labor relations in general.

Frederic Donner was twice honored by the University of Michigan, receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1961, and a business leadership award from the School of Business Administration in 1967. Frederic G. Donner died in 1987.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The papers of Frederic G. Donner consist of .75 linear feet of materials dating from 1921 to 1983. The collection is arranged by type of material, and then chronologically. The series of the collection include Biographical Material, Addresses, Writings, Savings-Stock Purchase Program, and Photographs.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.

  • Automobile industry and trade -- United States.
  • Photographs.
  • General Motors Corporation.
  • Donner, Frederic G. (Frederic Garrett), 1902-1987.
  • Donner, Frederic G. (Frederic Garrett), 1902-1987.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
Career Materials [series]
Biographical/ Personal Materials
Box   1  
Biographical sketches
Box   1  
Clippings, articles, press releases, etc
Box   1  
University of Michigan memorabilia 1921-1923
Box   1  
Year-end letters and telegram from GM executives 1941-1954 (scattered dates)
Box   1  
Letters of congratulations, letters offering positions within the company, letters accepting positions, etc. 1923-1937
Box   1  

(including letters from Roger Smith and Gerald Ford)

Box   1  
Addresses and press conferences 1958-1967 (10 folders)

The largest portion of the collection are addresses consisting of the speeches and press conference remarks that Mr. Donner made over a ten-year period, 1958-1967. These addresses provides an excellent overview of the accomplishments and goals of General Motors during the period when Mr. Donner was board chairman and chief executive officer.


The writing files are of value for tracing the development of Mr. Donner's ideas and philosophy of management. Consisting largely of reprints of articles about the company, the writings also includes copies of his 1967 book The World-wide Industrial Enterprise.

Box   1  
Letters to shareholders, articles, reprints of articles
Box   1  
Book: The World-wide Industrial Enterprise

(English, Italian, and Japanese copies)

Box   1  
Savings-Stock Purchase Program (correspondence and memoranda) 1955
Box   1  

(See also oversized folder: UAm)

The Photographs file consists of portraits of Donner and photos of the University of Michigan campus.