Alumni Spotlight: Raynard Durham

Raynard Durham

Raynard Durham has had a passion for cars since childhood. So it is only fitting that he has spent his 28-year career at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and today is the company’s Director of Chassis & Vehicle Dynamics. A 1988 WMU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in automotive engineering, his love of cars has extended beyond the workplace and into his hobbies -- like building high performance racing engines and being active on a family racing team. Durham also received his master’s degree in automotive engineering in 2002 from Lawrence Technological University. He can be reached at Durhamray1@gmail.com.

What has your career path been like? Have there been any surprises along the way?

My first job out of college after completing a co-op with Eaton Corporation was with Chrysler Corporation. It was August of 1988 that I joined Chrysler, now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and I have been strategically working my career path since. The opportunities have been endless, each growing in responsibility along the way. I have enjoyed the opportunity to travel the world and witness other cultures and engineering practices.  I have experienced some of the most amazing terrain and climbed some of the highest peaks in North America during my assignment as the Vehicle Line Executive for Jeep. In contrast, I have driven our high performance SRT products through winding road courses and breath-taking acceleration during my assignment managing the Chassis/Vehicle Dynamics organization.

A significant surprise that has never faded, and source of great pride, is while driving down the road looking at passing vehicles, knowing that you were instrumental in building that amazing machine.  The realization that as an engineer, you play a significant role in building something that encompasses every form of engineering is truly incredible.

I have worked for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for 28 years and have enjoyed and learned from every assignment, never passing up an opportunity for growth. Following is a timeline of positions I’ve held and areas I’ve had the opportunity to work in.

  • Director, Chassis & Vehicle Dynamics (2015)
  • Director, Vehicle Integration & Validation (2012)
  • Vehicle Line Executive, Jeep & SUV (2011)
  • Model Responsible/Chief Engineer – Jeep Products (2009)
  • Vehicle Synthesis Manager (2008)
  • Chassis Engineering Manager (2007)
  • Vehicle Synthesis Manager (2004)
  • Engineering Supervisor – Steering & Suspension (1997)
  • Senior Engineer – Fuel & Exhaust (1995)
  • Product Development Engineer (1988 - 1994)

With nearly 30 years of experience in the automotive industry, you’ve seen many changes in the business. What can we expect the next 5-10 years to bring?

We’ve entered a very exciting time in the auto industry with the opportunity to influence many changes and enhancements. Among the examples that come to mind is the level of vehicle safety that is growing exponentially. Vehicle autonomy is growing by the day as witnessed in daily media reports. The industry has greatly extended the use of electronics and computers. Alternative energy and propulsion systems are vastly improving performance and vehicle options. Material composition changes are greatly affecting the drive for lighter weight vehicles with improved fuel efficiency. There is an endless opportunity for engineers to influence how we process materials to steadily produce improvements within this industry.

What are you passionate about in your work?

What I like best are the people. We have a terrific workforce here and not only have I made (and continue to make) professional, lasting alliances, I have made some of the best, lifelong friends throughout the years that will continue to be in my life long into the future.  Secondly, and of equal importance, is the work we do here. Automotive engineering is integral to my life, be it work, hobbies, education, etc. It’s extremely rewarding to be part of a team that develops world-class products and a great motivation in my life to continue this work, and consistently strive to reach higher goals.

How did your experience at WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences shape your success?

In addition to providing the foundation of a stellar education, the experience translated into an essential component of being successful in the business world – flexibility and prioritization. For example, working with my current organization, Chassis Engineering/Vehicle Dynamics, we interact  with every team in the company.  Since Chassis supports a number of the sciences and development (Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH), Impact, Aero-thermal, Vehicle Integration, Materials, etc.) we have the opportunity to work with every Fiat Chrysler team, including Procurement and Supply, Brand and Planning.  The education and knowledge, combined with the ability to wear different hats and work numerous roles, is a major contributing factor to career success, regardless of the organization. The hands-on experience that WMU provided through engineering labs, the SAE organization and my co-op placement were vital to my career growth and success.

What advice do you have for engineering students interested in pursuing a career in the automotive industry?

Find your passion and cultivate it. Weave your passion into everything you do and never stop being curious. Live your core values with conviction. Keep looking for the how and why things work and remain inquisitive. Plot your course and work it with speed, confidence and integrity.

Do you have a favorite Bronco moment?

There are too many moments to choose just one, for sure! There are some highlights that come to mind, however, with the first being having met my wife, also a fellow Bronco!  Other moments that stand out are playing football for WMU, the Engineering Soap Box Derbies, Bronco Bashes, Homecoming festivities and ‘Life in the Valleys.’ 

Above all, the best moments are having made lifelong friends, fellow Broncos, who share the same memories and lasting bonds.

Anything else we should know about you?

I’ve been married to my wife Terri for nearly 22 years. We have a daughter, Mikayla (15) and son, Nicholas (17).  We recently had the opportunity to visit WMU with our son who participated in the Medallion Scholarship competition.  Perhaps becoming a full-fledged Bronco may be in his near future. 

Since childhood my passion has been automotive and racing related.  My hobbies have led me directly to enjoy both the work and life I have today. Attaining my engineering degree from WMU presented me with the resources and knowledge to build upon that passion and even further advance my skill set. I’ve grown up building high performance racing engines with my family.  We’ve designed and built many of our own chassis. I’ve also remained an active member of my family racing team, which has extended to additional hobbies, including ATVs, snowmobiling, off-roading and skiing.