Driven for Ford
Automaker steers Stewart '12 into 'Thirty Under 30' group
By Matt Markey ’76
Clayton Stewart ’12 readily admits to being a “car guy.” His first set of wheels was a red Ford Fusion, and he remembers it fondly.
“Back then, I thought I was the coolest kid on the block,” said Stewart, a 2012 graduate of Bowling Green State University who now works for Ford Motor Company.
“I’ve always been very interested in the automotive field and had a passion for cars, and a passion for Ford,” he said. “I had family that worked for Ford, so Ford has always felt like home, like where I belonged.”
“I feel like the mentors I had at Bowling Green made sure I had level feet and kept moving forward ... those mentors can help you take it to the next level, or push you on a path that might not be that comfortable, but one that leads to the light at the end of the tunnel.While still a student, Stewart worked for Ford as an hourly contractor at Ford’s Lima Engine plant for two summers. He followed that up with two internships at one of Ford’s Dearborn operations, a connection he was able to make through job fairs held on the BGSU campus. His interest in the auto industry and enthusiasm for the job led to some surprisingly large responsibilities during his internships.
“I was doing some capacity planning, looking at ways to optimize capacity, and working on a special project to maximize growth. As an intern, I was impressed by the level of responsibility they did give me, and there was a certain level of fear since I really wanted to meet their expectations. It was a lot for an intern to take on, and a couple of times I wondered if they picked the right person,” Stewart said with a laugh.
He said the experience enabled him to learn Ford’s systems and how the company functions, which put him in a much stronger position for his second internship.
“I was able to really learn and understand some of the intricacies of their business model,” he said. “It was extremely valuable in preparing me for a full-time job there. I felt like I knew where I was going.”
After graduating from the College of Business Administration with a double major in economics and supply chain management, Stewart felt ready for the challenges of the rapidly changing automotive field.
“Being there just built on what I had learned in my classes, and my education and the internship experience helped me understand what Ford was all about,” he said. “I was able to build my own business acumen, and know what they were doing, and where they were going with various projects.”
Ford recently selected Stewart to be part of its prestigious “Thirty Under 30” group of young employees who will learn how to be philanthropists. The innovative new community initiative is a pet project of Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford. Hundreds of Ford employees across the country applied to be part of the ground-breaking group of individuals who will serve as Ford’s ambassadors of community service in the years ahead.
“It was a great honor to be chosen and I am excited to be involved in this effort,” Stewart said. “With Bill Ford spearheading it, this really represents the Ford brand and shows how we are moving in a very positive direction to make meaningful change. This will grow the Ford core values into the communities where we live and work. We, as an organization, will work to make people’s lives better.”
Stewart credits his instructors and mentors at BGSU – Sheri Stoll, Mearl Sutton, Dr. Mary Ellen Benedict and Sara Bushong – with helping him build the foundation that has led to great opportunities with Ford.
“I feel like the mentors I had at Bowling Green made sure I had level feet and kept moving forward,” said Stewart, who works in Ford’s Body & Exterior Purchasing division in the Detroit area. “I think it is essential to have mentors like that. Classes establish a foundation, but those mentors can help you take it to the next level, or push you on a path that might not be that comfortable, but one that leads to the light at the end of the tunnel. I was very fortunate to have a lot of people helping me.”
Stewart said he is enthusiastic about what lies ahead in the automotive industry as more lightweight materials are being put to use to improve fuel economy and rapid advancements take place in developing autonomous vehicles.
“As I come to work each day, I always drive past Ford’s world headquarters and I see that big blue oval and know Ford has been around for more than a hundred years, and I wonder where we are going for the next 100 years,” he said.