December 10, 2010

Dear friends,

Some of you may be unaware that over the last month my father, Chuck Jordan, was stricken with a rare and aggressive form of lymphoma. Within a matter of 5 weeks my dad went from good health to his final day, which was Dec. 9th.

Throughout this trying month, he was in and out of the hospital. Initially he responded well to his treatment and the family was encouraged about his chances for recovery. However, last Tuesday we received the news that the cancer had aggressively returned. My dad weakened quickly, and died quietly at home on Thursday with his family by his bedside. It was the way he would have wanted it. As dignified as he was, he would not have wanted to linger on for weeks or months. Prayer was definitely answered.

Throughout his illness, he received e-mails and cards of ‘well wishes’ from friends and admirers. We shared them with him before he became so gravely ill. Our family wants to acknowledge and thank you all for the support and prayers that were sent his way. It meant more than you know.

He lived an amazing life, accomplished countless professional achievements, influenced and served as a role model to so many, and above all was a wonderfully great and loving Dad. As compelling as his career at GM was, his kids were always first in his heart, and he was NEVER too busy for us. It cannot be overstated how much he will be missed by his family. I feel so fortunate that throughout these last few weeks, I was able to spend some quality time with him. We had some memorable conversations during this time.

No matter how much you think you’re ready for this day, you never really are. I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have had such an amazing father. I cannot ever recall a time in my life when I wasn’t anything but immensely proud of him. We shared some wonderful ‘father and son’ times together and luckily shared the same ‘passions’. As I’ve lived my life, I’ve become increasingly aware just how rare and special he was… a one-in-a-million irreplaceable Dad. How my internal landscape will change now that he is gone is hard for me to see. My world without my father in it is inconceivable.

 

Chuck and Mark Jordan on a parade lap around Michigan International Speedway in the ’59 Stingray in the late ’70s. MIR photos by Gary Smith.
The family will begin the planning of his memorial service at the GM Heritage Center in Warren, Michigan on January 28th. As you surely know, Dad always held a fond personal interest in design education and developing young design students. Our family will establish a design scholarship in his name and honor at the Center for Creative Studies of Detroit.

I know he wouldn’t want his friends or family to linger in grief too long. He would have us toast him at a party and remember the good times—countless times with him as patriarch of our family, husband, father, grandfather, teacher, mentor and friend. Though he is gone his influence will always remain a part of each of us. We will pass it on to family members to come.

The Jordan family would appreciate any memorial contributions sent to the ‘Charles M. Jordan’ Scholarship fund. You can go on-line to http://www.collegeforcreativestudies.edu/support/mission or send donations to:

Center for Creative Studies

201 East Kirby

Detroit, MI 48202

Att. Liz Klos

Warm regards,

Mark

Published by permission.

 

Chuck, still judging cars, stands besides one of his designs. Taken October, 2010.

 

Mark with his Dad on his 83rd Birthday.

 

Obituary of Charles M. Jordan 1927-2010

Charles M. “Chuck” Jordan passed away at home after a brief illness, on Thursday, Dec 9 at age 83. He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather and a legendary automobile designer.

Charles M. Jordan was born October 21, 1927, in Whittier, California. He showed an early interest in automobiles, designing and building scale models in grade school. As a sophomore in 1947, Mr. Jordan won the General Motors Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild design competition, which provided a scholarship and was the launching point of his lifetime career at GM. Upon graduation from MIT in 1949, he joined the General Motors (GM) Design Staff as a junior designer. At the age of 26 Chuck became Chief Designer of the Special Projects studio. By the age of 30 he became Chief Designer of Cadillac.  In  1962 he was named executive in charge of exterior design for GM and LIFE magazine selected Mr. Jordan as one of the “100 most important young men and women in the United States” in its “takeover generation” issue.

Mr. Jordan became Director of Design of Opel in Germany in 1967, a position he held until 1970 when he returned to GM’s U.S. design staff as executive in charge of exterior design. In 1977, Chuck was named Director of the GM design staff and in 1986 was named Vice President of Design for all of General Motors, the post which he held until retirement in November 1992. He was the fourth man ever to be elected to the position of Vice president of General Motors Design, a position he held from 1986 through his retirement in1992.

Throughout his career, he influenced the look of GM vehicles around the world. Chuck is credited with a long list of iconic designs at a time when GM set the tone for style in the industry. Some of Chuck’s design accomplishments included the 1954 GM Aerotrain, 1955 Chevrolet Cameo carrier pickup, 1958 Chevrolet Corvette, the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, 1963 Buick Riviera, and the 1992 Cadillac CTS. During his tenure at GM Chuck’s design experience included all types of vehicles; experimental and production passenger cars, trucks, buses, trains and earth-moving equipment. His numerous awards included the Distinguished Service Citation—Automotive Hall of Fame in 1990 and an honorary Doctorate from Art Center College of Design in 1992.

After his retirement he remained active speaking and designing for various automotive organizations.  Perhaps his greatest love was teaching high school students automotive design at Valhalla and La Costa Canyon high schools.  He was passionate about promoting creativity in students who showed serious interest in automobile design. In June 2010, he was awarded the San Diego Channel 10 Leadership award for his outstanding dedication to these young designers.

Chuck had a great passion for Ferraris and was an avid collector of Ferrari cars, literature and scale models. One of his fondest memories was taking a ride with Enzo Ferrari in the Italian countryside in the early ’60s.

Chuck lived in Rancho Santa Fe, California. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sally, son Mark, daughters Debra Bryan and Melissa Hall; four grandsons; two brothers and a sister.

As passionate about his family as he was his profession, Chuck gave tirelessly of his time and himself.  The influence he had on each child and grandchild’s life is profound and indescribable.  All feel blessed to have him as the head of our family and he will remain our greatest role model. The loss we feel cannot be overstated, yet we are filled with gratitude for his life and his unconditional love.

 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”—John 5:24

14 Comments
  1. Chuck was an amazing and kind man. He always encouraged designers and was always happy to offer creative assistance to any one who asked. He will be sorely missed at Monterey every year by the many people who knew and looked forward to seeing him. He has left the world a legacy of design excellence that will never be forgotten. I am proud to have known him. He is a legend and rightfully so.

  2. Another icon passes into history. How fortunate we are to have a site like this to tell their stories and keep their memories alive.

  3. As a recent graduate of Art Center, my colleagues and I had heard many a story of the talent, determination,sheer genius, and accomplishments of mr. Jordan. They were the kind of stories that heartened all of us about choosing this profession and inspired us all to keep growing within it.

    I am sorry for the loss that the Jordan family has to endure, but I am confident that Mr. Jordan’s spirit will live on in each and every one of us as designers.

  4. I can only repeat what Jim has said. I am proud to have known your dad and counted him as a friend. When I was just beginning in the magazine business in the mid 70s, i would come to Detroit every couple of months and your dad always made me welcome in his office—Ferrari guys. Then we would go down to the Mitchell garage and take something interesting to play with for the rest of the day and often into the late evening. I remember we once dropped in at Dick Teague’s house after midnight because he knew the Teagues were finishing a Pope for the next day’s car show. He once gave Bob d’Olivo and me the Aerovette to drive and photograph for an entire afternoon. I made big black marks through all the corners of the “photo road.” He loved seeing that car used as it was “proposed” to be used. Everyone loved your dad. He was always unexpectedly complimentary with what ever my latest publishing project was. He will be greatly missed, but NEVER forgotten. All the best to you and your family Mark.

  5. Wayne Barratt

    Saddened to hear of this great mans passing. He was truly one of the world’s great automobile designers, whose work has been admired and appreciated by many.

    RIP

  6. My most heartfelt condolences to the Jordan family during this very trying time. I can’t imagine the GM Design team throughout the years without Chuck Jordan in mind. I always loved reading about his achievements during his tenure there at General Motors. What a brilliant man!! It should be required reading, the story of Mr. Jordan’s life and career, by all young design students. We have lost yet another great “Titan” of the automobile design elites. I am so saddened over hearing this tragic news. May God Eternally Bless him and his family and I sincerely wish them all the best.
    Mark Wayne Gregory in Dallas

  7. A great loss to the heritage automotive design——JT May he rest in peace

  8. Greg B.

    Thank you, Mark Jordan, for writing such a fine tribute to your father. Take comfort in knowing he lived a long and productive life and touched so many with his amazing talent. I wish you and your family the very best during what is surely a difficult time.

  9. Bob Johnson

    Mark.. when I worked for Monogram Models, I worked with your dad on new GM projects.. he had as much enthusiasm and design interest in the scale models as he did for the “real thing”… a true gentleman!! It is no surprise that he was a GREAT DAD!!!

  10. Suzanne LaGassey

    To the Jordan family, I have just learned of Chuck’s passing and I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to you. I have heard nothing but great things about him over the years from my father, Homer. The great icons are all leaving us, but their great memories and accomplishments will remain forever. My Dad was very close friends with Chuck and will be very upset over this news. I am planning on attending the Celebration for Chuck on January 28, to represent Homer, who will be unable to attend. Again, my deepest condolences for the loss of this very great man.

  11. Patricia Laramie

    What a pleasure it is to read about a man that had such an influence on so many lives. For years he shared his passion for cars with the little town of Franklin, Mi every Labor Day parade when he drove a stylish car in their parade. General Motors would not be one of Detroit’s strongest companies today without the extensive influence of Chuck Jordan. Obviously, he has had that same impact on a generation of new designers and their educational facilities. My sympathies go out to all of the Jordan family. May you take solace in recognizing his profound effect on everything around you for the rest of your lives.

  12. John Houlihan

    Chuck Jordan was the person at GM who hired me in 1966. I will always remember him for that great honor. GM was my true design education. The best of the best designed GM products. Thank you Mr. Jordan for your faith in me and my ability. I owe you.

    John T. Houlihan

  13. Jack Koby

    As one of Mr. Jordan’s final students, I was lucky enough to spend a year working with him. He greatly influenced me in much more than just the world of design. I am now applying to multiple colleges with an auto design portfolio thanks to Mr. Jordan. I wish that he could have been around longer, and with every design i draw, my first thought is, “what would Mr. Jordan say about this.” He was honest and helpful. It was an amazing opportunity. RIP.

  14. Ray DaSilva

    Hello Mark, beautiful tribute to your father. I had the pleasure of meeting him in the late 80’s while being privileged printing his extraordinary GM holiday card.
    Hope you and family are doing well!
    Your Groves High classmate…Ray DaSilva

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