Darryl Hazel Biography
Learned Importance of Education Early, Committed to His Studies, Began Work at Ford
President of the Lincoln Mercury Division of the Ford Motor Company Darryl Hazel knows how to make the most out of his opportunities. Growing up as the only child of parents who had been young adults during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Darryl Hazel learned early the importance of hard work and personal responsibility. Beginning with his first job as a restaurant dishwasher, he set a pattern of working his way up to positions of increasing responsibility. Hazel met with success not only because of his willingness to do whatever work needed to be done, but also because he has a lively intellectual curiosity that enables him to turn any job into an opportunity to learn about the business world and the people around him. His efforts have earned him one of the top positions in an American giant of a company.
Learned Importance of
Darryl Barton Hazel was born on June 10, 1948, in the Manhattan borough of New York City. His father Osborne worked as a civilian clerk for the Department of the Navy, while his mother Olive taught various grades in the New York City schools. Olive Hazel had earned two master's degrees and her husband had attended college but had not graduated. Almost forty when their only son was born, the Hazels passed on to young Darryl their expectations that he would get a higher education, find a productive career, and make a contribution to society. Though they had certainly experienced racism and prejudice during their lives, they had little patience for those who blamed others for their problems. They taught their son that each person is responsible for making the most of his life. Darryl respected his parents and took their words to heart.
When Darryl was eight, the Hazels moved from the inner city neighborhood of Harlem to the liberal suburb of Teaneck, New Jersey. Though they were one of the first black families to move into the neighborhood, Hazel was far more surprised by the darkness of the suburban streets and the nighttime racket of crickets and cicadas than by the race of his neighbors. He soon settled in to his new life.
As his 16th birthday approached, Hazel's father mentioned that it might be time for him to think about getting an after-school job. The next day Darryl Hazel had secured his first job, as dishwasher and bus boy at a local restaurant called Friendly's. He found many things to appreciate about his new job. First, he discovered that he liked earning his own money. Moreover, he was enthralled with the dynamics of the business itself. As he learned about the business, he also began to learn about the people involved, his coworkers, supervisors, and customers. He learned that if he worked hard, he could be promoted to positions of greater responsibility and that those positions offered even more chances to learn.
Hazel worked at Friendly's for the next several years. Once his supervisors learned that he was a hard worker, they promoted him to shift supervisor, then to night manager. There he learned more about the day-to-day aspects of the business, such as how to predict which flavors of ice cream would sell the fastest, so that the restaurant would order the right supplies. He also learned how to evaluate the performance of his co-workers, a skill he would put to use later in his management career at Ford.
In 1966 Hazel graduated from Teaneck High School and enrolled at Wesleyan University, a respected college in nearby Middletown, Connecticut. One of his professors suggested that he major in economics, the study of how the world's resources and manufactured goods are produced, distributed, and used. Hazel graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics in 1970.
Committed to His Studies
World events guided his next choice. During the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, the United States was involved in an undeclared war in the Southeast Asian nation of Vietnam. A military draft was in place, which required all young men to serve in the military. Many of the young men drafted during these years were sent to fight in Vietnam. Though sometimes college students were allowed to delay the draft until their studies were completed, this was not always true. One of Hazel's friends had been drafted while attending law school. He had gone to Vietnam, where he had been killed.
Hazel had no desire to enter the military or to go to war. Neither he nor his parents supported the U.S. involvement in the far-away conflict, and he did not want to lose his life fighting a war he considered irresponsible. He applied for and received a university fellowship, or scholarship, to study economics at Chicago's Northwestern University. Fellowship students were unlikely to be drafted, which would allow Hazel to complete his education.
Hazel earned his master's degree in 1973. But by that time, Hazel had begun to question whether the academic world of economic study was right for him. He began to feel the need of more "real-world" experience, and looked for other opportunities. He accepted an invitation by the Ford Company to travel to an interview in New York City in December 1972.
Began Work at Ford
Though Hazel had first considered the interview mainly as an opportunity for a free trip home to visit his parents, he soon found himself working in the New York sales office of Ford's Lincoln Mercury Division. As he had when working as a dishwasher at Friendly's, Hazel immediately began to work hard and learn about the business. He began to learn that the principles of economics functioned quite differently in the real world than they had in the classroom. Just as at Friendly's, he quickly earned promotions, as his supervisors grew to appreciate his dedication and lively interest in his work.
While at the New York sales office, Hazel earned promotions to marketing manager, business management manager and field manager. He was also given managerial positions in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Boston. These promotions encouraged him to place even more priority on his work and career, and this, in turn led to even more promotions. Moving to Ford's national offices, he held several staff positions, including marketing programs and strategy manager, education and training manager, and marketing research director. He also worked in product development, serving as business planning manager for North American Car Product Development.
In July 1995 Hazel was given the job of general sales manager for Ford's Lincoln Mercury Division. In April 1997, he was appointed general marketing manager for Ford Division, and in 2002 he became vice president of the Ford Customer Service Division. In August of the same year he was promoted to president of the Lincoln Mercury Division of the Ford Motor Company.
At the helm of Lincoln Mercury, Hazel dug in immediately to reinvigorate the Lincoln and Mercury brands. He told the Detroit Free Press that "We need to re-establish ourselves in the car market." Within five months, Hazel had rolled out a plan to do so, including advertising, concentration on four key vehicles, and new promotions. Speaking with Automotive News, Hazel explained that "One of the traps we fell into is that we did not put as much attention and emphasis on our traditional business. Now we have to work at getting back what historically has been ours." By 2005, Hazel's efforts were beginning to pay off. The brand had new products that reached younger audiences and sales were beginning to pick up. "We had a while where we were anchored in yesterday, but I think we are moving forward," he told Automotive News.
Hazel continues to place a high value on education and has become a promoter of a Ford-sponsored academic program to focus on black business education. Though frequently working 60-hour weeks, he has also placed great importance on his own family and considers his children to be his greatest accomplishment. Like his own parents, he has tried to raise them to be self-sufficient hard workers who will make their own contribution to society.
Automotive News, January 13, 2003, p. 26; February 14. 2005.
Black Enterprise, November 2002, p. 72.
Detroit Free Press, February 11, 2003.
"Ford Motor Company Names Hazel To Head Lincoln Mercury," Automotive Intelligence News, www.autointell-news.com/News-2002/July-2002/July-2002-4/July-24-02-p8.htm (March 11, 2005).
Information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Darryl Hazel on January 28, 2005.
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