Controller drives charitable efforts

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Sunday, January 20, 2008
— John Pearse showed up for an interview at 6:30 a.m.

He was on vacation, but the early morning slot was about the only time he had on this Tuesday, a day that included a Forward Janesville meeting an hour later and ended after several appointments with a dinner meeting.

Six thirty isn’t early for Pearse, who’s usually on the job as controller for the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville hours earlier. And his days—whether they’re filled with automotive business or community service—are generally as jam-packed.

As the financial manager at the plant, Pearse has oversight of all things financial. He’s also tied to nearly all of the plant’s charitable efforts. Organizing a culture of community service is no small task at the plant, which employs more than 2,700 people.

Pearse and his family came to Janesville in 1993. He’s been involved with the United Way in other GM communities, so his involvement with the local organization was a natural.

“When you relocate, to a certain extent you lose your support network, and one way to create one is to get involved and meet people,” he said.

Pearse currently chairs the United Way of North Rock County’s board of directors. He serves on Forward Janesville’s government relations committee, and, as of late, has served the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming.

He’s also helped organize recent UAW/GM charity raffles that have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local nonprofits.

Pearse is proud of the work the plant and its employees do for the community. But he’s careful not to blow GM’s horn too loudly. GM’s community service work often gets the most attention, which unfairly minimizes the important work of smaller companies, he said.

The plant often is perceived as the deep-pocket source for donations of either money or talent. It routinely tops the list of those seeking help.

“John’s no pushover; he’s not afraid to say no,” said GM plant manager Gary Malkus. “He’ll come to me and say an organization has demonstrated that its helps the community, and we ought to support it. He does his homework and doesn’t make decisions lightly.

“When he suggests something we ought to support, you can take it to the bank because it’s the right thing to do for Janesville.”

The United Way has taken Pearse’s commitment to the bank. Companies often appoint representatives to serve, and while some go through the motions for a term or two, Pearse’s service has been stalwart.

“In my 37 years of working with volunteers, John is a guy who has risen to the top,” said Gary Smith, the former local president of the United Way.

“If you want a volunteer that will accept an assignment, follow through on it and then critique it, then you want John. The community is blessed to have him.”

Smith said Pearse’s motives are far removed from a letterhead listing as a board member.

Pearse simply seeks ways to better the community, Smith said.

“My company has been good to me, and Janesville has been good to me and my family,” Pearse said. “When you look at the community, there are still a lot of needs to be filled, and those are increasing. There are a lot of people slipping below the economic well-being of the community; that’s easy to miss unless you get involved.

“Janesville is a unique community in that it doesn’t readily accept outsiders, but I’ve found that if you get involved, become a team player and advance at the pace of the group, you can be accepted.”

In doing that, Pearse has been more than accepted. He’s been embraced.

John Pearse
Age: 57.
Community: Janesville.
Occupation: Controller at General Motors in Janesville.
Family: Wife, Diana; two daughters, Kristine and Katie; and two grandchildren.
Favorite hobby or pastime: “I love to play golf, also interested in late ’60s muscle cars on the spectator side, not as a mechanic.”
Favorite CD: Anything by Jimmy Buffet.
Favorite movie: Currently “American Gangster.”
Favorite book: Anything by B.S. Levy, particularly “The Last Open Road.”
Three words that best describe you: Obsessive, compulsive and early.

Last updated: 1:35 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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