'Goodwill' ambassador receives coveted honor he helped create

by Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Long known as one of Detroit’s finest business litigators, Clarence “Rocky” Pozza is seldom caught by surprise, either inside or outside a courtroom.

The night of May 20 was different, however.

“Quite frankly, I was shocked,” said Pozza, a day after receiving the coveted Barbara Smith Award from Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, a nonprofit organization that he has championed in many ways for more than two decades.

The award, named after the widow of former General Motors Chairman Roger Smith, is presented annually to an honoree who has “assisted Goodwill in advancing its mission” of providing job placement programs for those seeking a second chance to thrive in society.

Ironically, Pozza was instrumental in creating the award some 7 years ago as a tribute to Mrs. Smith, who has been a dedicated and generous supporter of Goodwill for decades.

“She has done so much over the years to support the Goodwill cause and it’s an unbelievable honor to receive an award bearing her name,” said Pozza. “I never would have dreamed it.”

Fittingly, Mrs. Smith and several members of her family were on hand when Pozza was presented with the award at a dinner ceremony following the annual Goodwill golf outing at Detroit Golf Club. The event drew a record turnout of 230 golfers, including many from the local legal community such as Dave DuMouchel, chair of the While Collar Criminal Defense and Investigations Practice at Butzel Long.

DuMouchel helped trumpet the news of Pozza’s honor, sending out an e-mail message to various friends and legal colleagues, noting that the award is reserved for the “most deserving supporter, contributor, ambassador for Goodwill.”

That, in a nutshell, is Rocky Pozza, who spent 42 years with Miller Canfield before “retiring” from the firm in early 2017 to start a second career as one of the principals in the Detroit office of Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services (JAMS). His partners in the practice include retired U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen, retired U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, and former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly.

A former chairman of the board for Goodwill in Detroit, Pozza has helped spearhead the success of the nonprofit’s employment training, education, support and job placement programs.

“For nearly a century, Goodwill has dedicated its resources to ‘putting people with employment challenges to work,’” Pozza said, accentuating a phrase that has become the mantra of the organization founded in 1921.

He is particularly proud of a welding program that in recent years has churned out 140 graduates, many of whom spent time in state correctional facilities before they enrolled.

“Six of our welding graduates worked on the construction of Little Caesars Arena,” said Pozza.

“We also have developed a Green Works subsidiary that specializes in industrial recycling,” Pozza added. “It helps provide training for our trainees and funding for our programs while also being environmentally friendly. We’ve strived to be creative in our funding approach.”

Then, of course, there are the Goodwill stores that sell used clothing, furniture, and other goods; and Goodwill’s Industrial Solutions Group, which provides automotive and other assembly services.

“Probably most people think that is the extent of Goodwill – the stores and the drop-off sites for donated goods,” Pozza said. “In reality, it’s just part of our overall organization. The stores probably will always be the face of Goodwill, but we want people to know that we have grown into an organization that includes much more and is impacting many more lives across the Detroit area.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

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