If you’re looking for an individual that practices Lasallian values as part of their everyday life, look no further than Matt Rohr, a class of 1975 graduate from De La Salle Collegiate.
Rohr, who attended Grosse Pointe South High School his freshman year, was molded into the faith-filled man that he is today in part due to his time at De La Salle. He also used the Lasallian principles he learned at DLS to guide himself in his line of work: human capital management.
After earning a Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Michigan, Rohr got his start in the human capital management field at General Motors. He also had stops at GE (General Electric) Medical Systems, Aetna Health Care, and CNA Life and Group Insurance.
While with CNA Life and Group Insurance, he served as senior human resources officer and executive vice president. Additionally, the insurance-based organization, while Rohr was an employee, grew into a $6 billion group of companies. And, when CNA was sold, he was able to retire at 44 years old.
It was during his time with GE Medical Systems that he saw his De La Salle education lend a huge assist.
After GE Medical Systems acquired CGR, a French radiology company, in 1987, Rohr and his colleagues had to work with and integrate native French speakers into the operations and culture of GE. This is when the French classes he took at De La Salle, taught by Evo Alberti, really came into play.
Due to Rohr’s ability to read the language, plus his basic knowledge of the history of France, he was able to relate more easily to those of French descent from CGR.
Alberti, who taught Rohr three years of French, just happened to be one of his favorite DLS teachers, too.
“He was a standard of excellence guy, and I struggled in French,” Rohr said of Alberti. “But, I got all A’s, and learned the language because of Alberti. He brought out the best in me in something I didn’t like. That’s a real teacher. He hung in there with me, and made sure that I still did well. And, I love him for it.”
Since retirement, Rohr has been involved in the nonprofit sector, and has lived a life geared toward serving others. Specifically, he ran a “job ministry” from 2008-2018 in Naperville, Ill., that helped thousands of people find jobs.
As Rohr explained, a job ministry is a faith-based approach to helping unemployed individuals choose or change careers. It involves teaching interviewing and networking skills, interview training, practice, and feedback, and helping individuals transition into new jobs.
It was rewarding work for the former HR professional, and all along the way, he relied upon the lifelong lessons that he soaked up during his time as a Pilot.
“As a Catholic man, no matter what field you enter, you have to figure out the right way to do the right thing, and with love. You treat people with respect. You have to deal with difficult people in a Christian manner,” Rohr said. “These lifelong lessons were essential for me to be a leader and to interact with people. It gave me a foundation of values, and in a real-life setting (outside of the classroom). I could get people to get along in the workforce because of it. I lived those values, and I feel like that’s why people listened to me.”
During Rohr’s tenure as a DLS student, the mantra of doing the right thing, the right way could be mostly attributed to longtime faculty and staff member Br. Robert Deary. According to Rohr, Br. Robert, a class of 1961 graduate of De La Salle, “was gentle but stern” in his approach with his students.
“You couldn’t mess around in his class, and you knew it. But, at the end of the day, he did everything with love,” Rohr expressed. “Ultimately, you knew he was right, and he operates that way to this day. And, I’m glad to say I have a relationship with him for life.”
As a student, Rohr also formed a close bond with Br. Jerome Stevens, a class of 1949 DLS graduate. Br. Jerome served as principal during Rohr’s time at The Collegiate and also taught him AP English his senior year. Rohr called the aforementioned English class “the best” course he had at DLS.
“He set a high bar for me, plus kept pushing me,” Rohr said of Br. Jerome. “He set high standards for the entire class and helped us get there. And, we learned a lot along the way about a variety of items, including literature, thinking, and making one’s case better.”
Rohr and his classmates were constantly challenged by the college preparatory school’s first-class faculty and staff. And, when it came time for a big quiz or test, they often got together at lunch to prepare for it.
“Something I loved to do on the day of a test, while at lunch, my classmates and I would all get together and quiz each other,” Rohr commented. “It got us ready for the test. Plus, if a guy didn’t know the subject matter, we’d help him out by explaining it to him. In so many words, we playfully tutored each other. And, in the end, we were helping each other to be successful.”
At De La Salle, “brotherhood” is not a word thrown around lightly. Instead, it is a very real thing and lasts longer than the four years one spends walking the hallways of The Collegiate. And, it’s embodied by countless alumni, including Rohr.
Through the influence of his classmates, the Christian Brothers, and numerous other faculty and staff members, Rohr is the man that he is today.
He put it best: “At De La Salle, our motto: ‘Builders of Boys. Makers of Men.’ is not a joke. We build boys to become men, and to be the very best they can be.”
And, Rohr, one of De La Salle’s finest alumni, is a living example of just that.