'Goodwill' ambassador receives coveted honor


By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

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

May 20 was different.

“Quite frankly, I was shocked,” said Pozza, a day after receiving the Barbara Smith Award from Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, a nonprofit organization he has championed 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, 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.”

Mrs. Smith and family members  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 230 golfers, including many from the local legal community.

Pozza spent 42 years with Miller Canfield before “retiring” from the firm in early 2107 to start a second career as one of the principals in the Detroit office of Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services (JAMS). His partners 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. 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 of the new home for the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons.  

“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 household 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 we have grown into an organization that includes much more and is impacting many more lives.”