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Kelley School of Business

Last modified: Thursday, September 13, 2012

Elizabeth Acton, retired Comerica CFO and former Ford executive, is IU Kelley School's Poling Chair

Sept. 13, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Elizabeth Acton, an alumna of Indiana University's Kelley School of Business and retired chief financial officer of Comerica Bank, is joining the school as a leader-in-residence.

Elizabeth Acton

Elizabeth Acton

Print-Quality Photo

Acton earned a Master of Business Administration degree at Kelley in 1976 and was inducted into its Academy of Alumni Fellows in 2001. In April, Acton retired as CFO of Comerica Bank, one of the top 25 U.S. banks, after a decade of service in that position.

Previously, Acton was corporate vice president and treasurer of Ford Motor Co., overseeing global automotive and financial services treasury activities. Her Ford career spanned 19 years in a variety of finance positions.

As is customary, the Kelley Leader-in-Residence also carries the title of the Poling Chair of Business and Government. It was established in 1993 by the late Harold "Red" Poling, a Kelley School alumnus and Ford Motor Co. chairman and chief executive officer from 1985 to 1994. Poling died on May 12.

Acton will be the second woman to hold the Poling Chair and the first recipient who has worked for "Red" Poling when he was CEO of Ford.

Recipients of the Poling Chair are given the charge to stimulate discussion in the areas of leadership, the critical interactions between private business and government in matters of public policy, enterprise competitiveness and economic growth. She will interact with students and faculty at the Kelley School in Bloomington and Indianapolis through 2014.

"I am thrilled to be back on campus sharing my corporate experience with students," Acton said. "Besides preparing me for a successful career, the Kelley School was also a matchmaker for me to meet my husband of 35 years. To be the Poling Chair is indeed an honor especially since I worked for 'Red' when I was at Ford."

Dan Smith, dean of the Kelley School, said Acton brings a unique set of leadership experiences to share with students.

"Through her executive positions at the Ford Motor Co., she has played an important role in shaping the national dialogue related to U.S. competitiveness," Smith said. "Our students will be entering a challenging environment and we want them to have an opportunity to engage with a leader who has led a company during periods of adversity.

"Beth has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to succeed during periods of economic volatility, rapid change in the global marketplace and the industry restructuring that comes with these conditions," he added. "I'm confident that when students reflect on their experiences at Kelley, their time spent engaging with Beth will be among the high points."

Previous Poling Chairs have come from both the public and private sectors. They include Bob Eckert, chief executive officer of Mattel Inc.; Ronald Dollens, former president and CEO of Guidant Corp.; Samuel K. Skinner, former U.S. secretary of transportation and chief of staff to former President George H.W. Bush; Sen. Evan Bayh, who taught prior to his election to the U.S. Senate; Randall L. Tobias, chairman emeritus of Eli Lilly and Co. and former vice chairman of AT&T Corp.; Gen. Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Frank Popoff, former CEO and chairman of Dow Chemical Co.; and Cie Nicholson, chief marketing officer of Equinox Fitness Clubs.

As CFO of Comerica, Acton was responsible for financial and management reporting, treasury and trading, risk management, investor relations, tax, procurement and sustainability. Through conservative management, she helped the bank maintain strong credit ratings through the severe recession of 2007-2009. She significantly enhanced the frequency and scope of the forecasting process to nimbly respond to challenging times.

As treasurer of Ford, Acton helped ensure sufficient liquidity to protect product investment and customer financing during recessionary times as the credit ratings deteriorated. She spearheaded initial public offerings of Ford subsidiaries, the Associates and Hertz, to reduce capital needs and realize value for Ford shareholders.

In May, Acton joined the board of directors of Beazer Homes USA, one of the 10 largest single-family homebuilders in the U.S. She also serves on the board of directors of Vista Maria, a Michigan-based, not-for-profit organization providing healing and hope to children who have suffered the effects of abuse, neglect and trauma.

In her career, Acton has been honored in 2008 by Institutional Investor magazine as one of the top mid-cap bank CFOs and was nominated in 2009 by the Dallas Business Journal for CFO of the year. In 2010, she received Northwood University's Distinguished Women's Award.