John D. Fickes
Class of 1963
Hall of Honor 2015
John Fickes graduated from Grand Island High School in 1963 and began college in Pennsylvania that fall. At that time Fickes wasn’t committed to school and thereafter worked several job; surveying, structural steel detailing, and owned a small gun store. In his last job prior to returning to school he landed a large contract for Sears Commercial Division and that commission made it viable to return to college. Fickes attended the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in May 1977, then a Master of Science in Engineering Mechanics in December 1978.
In January 1979, Fickes accepted a position with General Motors, Milford Proving Ground in Durability Test Development. While in that position, he performed statistical analysis of customer measured parameters to determine usage profiles and designed and modified road system driving schedules and events to align to desired severity. Fickes also worked with proving ground incidents to predict anticipated customer severity, sometimes resulting in product recall.
Fickes then changed career focus and accepted a post with the Finite Element Analysis Group of Current Product Engineering. Over time he worked on several vehicle programs: 1982 Cavalier, 1985 Grand Am, 1987 Corsica, Saturn Corporation’s Sedan Coupe and Wagon Launch, 1995 Cavalier and 1997 Malibu. Fickes’ roles increased in responsibility. Ultimately he became a Structural Analysis Manager supervising groups responsible for welded body aspects of vehicle architecture, crashworthiness, noise, vibration, and structural feel. Fickes also worked with performance tests for these products, aligning and integrating these tests to analysis predictions. He participated in bringing the GM Proving Ground into the lab via multi-axis test fixtures. This thrust resulted in product durability predictions using math modeling.
At this point General Motors wanted to more closely align product architectures and manufacturing processes. Fickes led a team to develop and implement directives for common body assembly practices, utilization of long term equipment by defining similar architectures, part topography, and build sequence.
In his last years with General Motors, Fickes held several roles, Senior Development Engineer for Advanced Body, Technical Integration Engineer of Safety and Crashworthiness, and GM Body Representative at the US Center for Automotive Research. Through his work to make automobiles safer, lighter, and more reliable, Fickes has earned many design patents. In 2015 he was presented the Boss Kettering Award for work performed in 2008, subsequently patented and is now used for hybrid vehicle battery encapsulation.
Fickes retired from General Motors in 2008. He continues to work in engineering on several projects for two entities under the banner of the American Iron and Steel Industry.
Fickes married Catherine Klingenberg (GIHS Class of 1964) and has two children, Dr. Blythe O’Donnell and Aaron Fickes Esq.; and four grandchildren, Brynn, John, Andrew and Maeve O’Donnell. Fickes currently resides in Onekama, MI.