Academy alum returns to the Detroit area to work on the city’s burgeoning growth and prosperity; also loves that his children are able to experience the same advantages he had as a GPA student.
Every year, when Crain’s Detroit Business, the region’s premier business weekly publication, releases its “40 under 40” list of young business movers and shakers in Southeast Michigan, the editors say that those on the list are “building Metro Detroit’s future.”
For Grosse Pointe Academy alum RJ Wolney, who was named to the CDB 40 under 40 list last year, that’s precisely what he’s doing in his job as vice president of finance at Bedrock Detroit, a full-service real estate firm specializing in acquiring, leasing, financing, developing and managing commercial and residential space. He says he’s fortunate to be able to work at a company that is participating in such a big way in the Detroit area’s growth and success.
“It is extremely exciting and humbling to have the opportunity to make such an incredible impact on my hometown, said Wolney, who grew up not far from Detroit in Grosse Pointe. “While we have achieved a lot over a short period of time, we’re really just getting started. We believe the Detroit region is, and increasingly will be, competitive against cities across the country when considering technology development and human-capital attraction. We are investing for the long term and we’re already seeing tangible and positive proof of that thesis.”
Wolney has been a part of this new Detroit renaissance since 2012, when, after working nearly 10 years in corporate finance with William Blair & Company, a global investment-banking firm based in Chicago, he moved back to his hometown.
“We came back to the Detroit area to join in the effort of Dan Gilbert and the Quicken Loans family of companies to invest in the City of Detroit,” he said. Wolney also said he and his wife, Kathleen, had no doubt about where their children were going to attend school after moving back.
“We chose to send our children to The Grosse Pointe Academy because we believe every child is unique and requires a thoughtful approach of educational style,” said Wolney, whose son, Luke, is a third grader and daughter, Madeline, is in GPA’s Early School. “The Montessori program offered by the Early School is by far the best platform to teach independent learners at their own pace. Furthermore, the school as a whole delivers an unmatched, bespoke experience that helps each child as an individual find his or her path to self-motivation as well as confidence in learning and exploration.”
As a 1993 graduate of the Academy, Wolney should know about the advantage of attending the venerable school on Lake Shore Road.
“Growing up at The Grosse Pointe Academy definitely established in me a foundation of lifelong learning and a passion to excel,” he said. “Even today, I still look to learn something new and find creative solutions when faced with challenges or problems. And I believe that mindset is rooted in the holistic approach offered by the Academy. I also think my academic success through Grosse Pointe South, the University of Notre Dame, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and my professional career are all attributable to the skills, confidence and work ethic instilled by GPA.”
But it wasn’t always about academics and hard work as a student at the Academy, according to Wolney.
“There were many unforgettable memories made during my time at GPA,” he’s said. “Our graduating class included 49 students and many of us still remain actively in contact today. Those lifelong friendships were forged through some really great and unique experiences such as the trips to Stratford, Ontario, Washington, D.C., and Camp Storer. But more importantly, I think, those longtime friendships were also strengthened through the everyday interactions that were fostered through the Academy’s open and inviting classroom environment, its school plays and, of course, athletics.”
Wolney and his wife, Kathleen, are now looking forward to their own children getting those same kinds of long-term experiences as students at the Academy. In fact, he has volunteered to help out as the school charts its course for the future.
“I will be participating in a number of focus-group discussions as part of the upcoming comprehensive strategic-planning process,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it!”