Ford of America's president, Mark Fields, needs to visit his mom more often. What with the daily pressures of saving Ford and all, he could use a bit more of his very down-to-earth mother's brand of support. Elinor Fields lives not far from the old family home in Paramus, New Jersey. She is the mother behind a son who has navigated his way through an economics degree at Rutgers, an MBA at Harvard, and what has been a stunning career at Ford. Fields headed Mazda in Japan at age 38, the youngest person to ever run a Japanese car company. He went on to lead the Premier Automotive Group, now dismantled, and he sits at the right hand of Alan Mulally, trying to move his Way Forward program, well, forward.
Today, though, Mark is seated at his mom's left hand, home for a rare lunch while the PR team readies the Flex press fleet for an event in New York. "He always followed his brothers. At A&S department store, Mark worked in Men's Pants, Lee was in Linens, Howard wired the Music Department," says Mrs. Fields, an elegant woman whose flawless skin and thick mane of dark hair make her look fifteen years younger than her actual age. "All three went to Rutgers. They were in the same fraternity. They had the same part-time job in college. All of them worked at IBM."
She hasn't seen her boy in a while, and she's laid out a spread that covers the dining room table. "He told me, 'Ma, I'm bringing someone for lunch, but she's diabetic, so just make tea,' " she laughs. "I said to him, 'What are you talking about?' "
There is a plate of roast beef and seven salads - tuna salad, egg salad, tomato salad, and so on. "I know," she shrugs at her three guests. "But how do I make less after all these years?"
She leans in toward him. A relative is holding a career day at school. "I told her you were very busy, but . . . " and pats his arm.
"Yes, Ma," he says.
"Mark was going to be my girl," she confides. "After two boys, this [she grabs his arm] was supposed to be my girl. But he was a hard worker. He wanted to make money when he was young. He was a caddy, and we found out he was carrying two bags at a time. We couldn't stop him."