Harold A. Poling


Honorary Degree (1990)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Thomas Ehrlich
Distinguished Alumni Service Award (1990)
M.B.A., 1951


Harold A. Poling has contributed his remarkable leadership skills and business acumen to strengthening one of the major corporations in the United States. As one of the top leaders of the Ford Motor Company for many years, he played a vital role in engineering the "turnaround" of the company in the 1980s and helped to build the powerful position Ford occupies today in the world marketplace.

Mr. Poling was born in Detroit, Michigan. He received the Bachelor of Science from Monmouth College in 1949, and the Master of Business Administration from Indiana University in 1951. He began his career at Ford Motor Company that same year, serving in staff and divisional finance positions. In 1964 he became assistant controller in the Transmission and Chassis Division, and in the folowing decade gained broad experience as divisional controller, controller of the Engine and Foundry Division, and controller of the Product Development Group.

In 1972 Mr. Poling's superb abilities were recognized by his promotion to vice president for finance of Ford of Europe, and he rose rapidly to company vice president and president of Ford of Europe, then to chairman of Ford of Europe. In 1979 he became executive vice president of Ford Motor Company and a member of the Board of Directors, and in 1980 was named executive vice president, Ford North American Automotive Operations.

His experience at Ford of Europe proved invaluable to the corporation as a whole. As president he had been responsible for the development of Ford's European products, and he brought the basic design features of these products to the U.S. in the form of Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable. These two cars, developed in a period of financial difficulty for Ford in the early 1980s, served as a catalyst for the resurgence of the company. Mr. Poling became president and chief operating officer of Ford Motor Company in 1985, and vice chairman of the board in 1987. In March of 1990 he became chairman of the board and chief executive officer.

His distinction - both professionally and in public service - has been honored by numerous awards. These include the Distinguished Service Citation Award of the Automotive Hall of Fame; the Leadership Award of the Engineering Society of Detroit; and the National Human Relations Award of the Greater Detroit Round Table, National Council of Christians and Jews. For his work on behalf of children, he has been named a National Partner of 4-H. He is a Fellow of the IU School of Business Academy of Alumni Fellows and has served for many years on the Dean's Advisory Council.