Photo of Donald N. Frey

Donald N. Frey

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Management

For his management of a wide range of commercial applications of new technology while serving as a senior executive in different industries; and for subsequent teaching and research, as a Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management Science, on the principles of technology commercialization.

The Ford Mustang has become one of America’s most iconic cars, but it almost didn’t happen. Donald N. Frey is partly to thank for the Mustang’s innovative concept and design, making it the first affordable muscle car to hit U.S. roads.

After Henry Ford II had rejected the concept for the Mustang four times, Frey took on the challenge. “There was no official approval of this [project]. We had to do it on a shoestring,” quoted Frey in 2004.

When Ford did approve the concept, he put Frey in charge as lead engineer and told him he would be fired if the Mustang wasn’t successful. Frey led the Mustang through development in a record 18 months, and 22,000 sold on the first day.

Throughout Frey’s career, he had a knack for seeing the potential in a project others thought was impossible. In the 1970s, Frey pioneered the first successful CD-ROM based information system, redesigning the auto parts catalog for General Motors, and digital service records for GM’s customers.

By Jennifer Santisi