Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.: Star of GM and philanthropy
Dressed like a dandy, starched and pressed to perfection, with high, stiff-collared shirts, double-breasted suits, spats and a pearl tie pin adorning his thin frame of 6 feet, 130 pounds, Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr. had the look of a playboy, someone inclined to spend his time on a yacht, entertaining lavishly, waking up at noon or later, dissipated and completely disinterested in his fellow man. But appearance, like a mirage, can be deceiving. Sloan built General Motors into the largest corporation in the world through hard work and vision, and devoted the same zeal to philanthropy. There was no time for play. Sloan, born in New Haven, Conn., in 1875, was not Horatio Alger. His father, a coffee and tea importer and wholesaler, was reasonably well off; the family had two or three servants at home. When Sloan was 10, the family moved to Brooklyn. Graduating from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute at 17, Sloan entered MIT. Although it only took him three years to get his degree in electrical engineering, he established a lifelong relationship with the university, one that would reap MIT enormous rewards in the future.