Posted on May 18, 2013 in Alumni News and News
Alan Mulally, e’68, g’69, grew up in Lawrence, following KU sports and going to games. He saw Wilt Chamberlain play his first varsity basketball game. When Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Co., spoke to the Class of 2012 at Commencement, he recalled sitting near the locker room entrance when he and Chamberlain, ’59, came face to face. “I said, ‘Hi’ and he said, ‘Hi.’ After that chat, Wilt went out and scored 52 points, setting a school scoring record in his first game. “I like to think that Wilt’s wonderful performance that day was because of the pep talk I gave him,” Mulally told KU graduates with a laugh.
Mulally enrolled in engineering at KU and joined the U.S. Air Force with a dream to become an astronaut. His plans were thwarted when he learned he was slightly colorblind. He instead took a job at Boeing as an airplane design engineer, and eventually became the president and CEO. Mulally said that after 37 years at Boeing, life handed him another gem. “I got a call from Bill Ford. Bill asked me to leave Boeing and join a company that was struggling, in an industry that faced incredible difficulties,” he said. Mulally is credited with turning Ford around amid the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.
In 2012 Mulally received an honorable doctor of science. Mulally began his Commencement speech by saying that despite his achievements in the transportation industry, “The most important thing you need to know about me is that I am a Rock Chalk Jayhawk.” He reminded alumni to thank their families for their successes, especially their moms, because the 2012 ceremony fell on Mother’s Day. Led by Mulally, new grads gave moms and families a standing ovation.
–Adapted from story in Kansas Alumni magazine, No. 3, 2012, written by Lydia Benda