• Home
  • KU Engineering Alumnus Takes the Wheel at Ford

KU Engineering Alumnus Takes the Wheel at Ford

Monday, October 9, 2006

 [Alan Mulally]

A University of Kansas engineering alumnus was elected Sept. 5 to the top post of Ford Motor Co.

Alan Mulally, who earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering in 1968 and a master's in aerospace in 1969, will be the new president and chief executive officer. He also was elected to the Board of Directors. Bill Ford will continue his duties as executive chairman of the company, the company announced.

Mulally, executive vice president of The Boeing Company and president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, is the second KU engineering graduate to lead one of the nation's top three automakers. Chrysler Corp. Chairman Emeritus and retired DaimlerChrysler AG Chairman Robert J. Eaton is a 1963 KU mechanical engineering graduate.

Bill Ford, who said he would remain "extremely active" in the business, praised Mulally as "an outstanding leader and a man of great character." He noted that Mulally had applied many of the lessons from Ford's success in developing the Taurus to Boeing's creation of the revolutionary Boeing 777 airliner. That experience, chronicled in the book, "Working Together," by James P. Lewis, tells how the leadership principles Mulally learned from Ford and developed at Boeing may be applied to other businesses.

"Clearly, the challenges Boeing faced in recent years have many parallels to our own," Bill Ford said.

"Alan has deep experience in customer satisfaction, manufacturing, supplier relations and labor relations, all of which have applications to the challenges of Ford. He also has the personality and team-building skills that will help guide our company in the right direction."

University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway congratulated KU graduate Alan Mulally on his election as president and CEO of the Ford Motor Co.

"Alan Mulally has soared to the top of both the aviation and now automotive industries," Hemenway said. "Some may see Kansas roots and a KU degree as humble beginnings, but actually they are just the solid foundation needed for a remarkably successful career in two of the most innovative and competitive industries in the world. We are proud Alan Mulally is a Jayhawk."

Mulally is a member of the KU School of Engineering Advisory Board. He has received several honors from KU including the Distinguished Engineering Service Award in 1994 and the university's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Citation, in 2002. In late 2005, Business Week named Mulally one of the top business leaders of 2005.

"I think the opportunity to work with Bill Ford and Ford Motor Company is the only thing that could have attracted me to a job other than Boeing, where I have so many great friends and memories," Mulally said. "I'm looking forward to working closely with Bill in the ongoing turnaround of this great company. I'm also eager to begin engagement with the leadership team. I believe strongly in teamwork and I fully expect that our efforts will be a productive collaboration."

Mulally noted that many of the challenges he encountered in commercial airplane manufacturing are analogous to the issues at Ford.

"Just as I thought it was appropriate to apply lessons learned from Ford to Boeing, I believe the reverse is true as well," Mulally said. "I also recognize that Ford has a strong foundation upon which we can build. The company's long tradition of innovation, developing new markets, and creating iconic vehicles that represent customer values is a great advantage that we can leverage for our future."

Bill Ford said he expected Mulally would assist Mark Fields and the Way Forward team as they accelerate their business plan.

"After dealing with the troubles at Boeing in the post-9/11 world, Alan knows what it's like to have your back to the wall — and fight your way out with a well-conceived plan and great execution," Bill Ford said in his note to employees. "He also knows how to deal with long product cycles, changing fuel prices and difficult decisions in a turnaround."

Prior to his current position, Mulally served as president of Boeing Information, Space & Defense Systems and senior vice president of The Boeing Company. Appointed to that role in February 1997, he was responsible for Boeing's defense, space and government business.

Mulally is co-chair of the Washington Competitiveness Council and sits on the advisory boards at NASA, the University of Washington, KU, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. He is a member of the United States National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of England's Royal Academy of Engineering.

After earning his bachelor's and master's degrees at KU, he earned a master's in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a 1982 Alfred P. Sloan fellow.

Visit Ford at


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times