By Renée Hartleib |
More than three decades have passed since Brian Fulton BA’85 faced off as centre for the hockey Huskies. There’s no ice time required in his new role as President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Canada Inc., but he’s still predicting moves, reading plays, and looking for opportunities: skills he attributes to a well-rounded education at Saint Mary’s University.
“My CEO training began as much at the rink as it did in the classroom,” says Fulton. “A degree in English taught me to be open-minded and adventurous – to look at change with anticipation rather than fear. Hockey inspired me to do well academically and gave me discipline. It taught me that success was only possible if you played as a team.”
Hockey also gave Fulton a slew of treasured memories. “It was a special time playing for Saint Mary’s,” he recalls. “There was a unique sense of competition and rivalry in Atlantic Canada. In those days, at one of the big Ontario universities, there would have been 300 spectators in the arena. More than 3000 fans came out when the Huskies played in cities like Moncton and Charlottetown.”
Fan loyalty remains an important part of Fulton’s agenda as he travels the country visiting Canada’s 57 Mercedes-Benz dealers. “We want to turn our customers into fans who fall in love with our cars and the Mercedes-Benz Brand,” he says. “We want them to feel a part of our MB family.”
As someone who appreciates the importance of that family dynamic, Fulton has never doubted the decision to leave his home in Ontario to attend Saint Mary’s.
“Being recruited to play for the Huskies was a wonderful opportunity and a great fit,” he says. “I had spent many summers visiting family in Cape Breton and Newfoundland, so I was already in love with Atlantic Canada when I arrived in Halifax in 1981.”
Ocean breezes and childhood memories set the stage for a comfortable coming of age in a close-knit, campus environment. Add to that a supporting cast of caring faculty and staff.
“Saint Mary’s has an incredible sense of community spirit,” says Fulton. “It wasn’t uncommon to see my professors show up at the Gorsebrook pub after a hockey game.”
The Gorsebrook continues to hold a special place in Fulton’s heart – and not only as the scene of late-night play-by-plays over frosty pints. “It’s where I met my wife, Tanya,” he says. “She attended Saint Mary’s as well, and her father Dr. Nathan Kling, was a professor there. We both see the University as an important part of our formative years.”
In Fulton’s playbook of key influences, the late Elizabeth Chard, former University registrar, also receives special attention.
“She took an interest in the entire hockey team, and a special interest in this kid from Ontario,” says Fulton fondly. “She had me stop by her office on Monday mornings before my first class. I’d try to play down any bad behaviour on the weekend, and she’d pretend not to know about it, but as I left her office, she’d sometimes drop a subtle comment. Nothing got past her.”
Elizabeth Chard believed in Fulton as a hockey player and as a student. The more she challenged him, the better he did—both on the ice and in the classroom.
“I had to work for my grades,” he says. “They didn’t come easily. On the way home from games, while many of the guys were chilling near the back of the bus, I would often hang up front to try to stay on top of my assignments.”
The hard work paid off only a few days after graduation with a job offer from Ford Motor Credit. “Having a Bachelor of Arts degree opened the door to an interview,” he says.
A subsequent stint at Toyota Motor Credit prepared Fulton for a position as Assistant Regional Manager for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services Canada in 1994. Since then, he has been a proud member of the Mercedes-Benz team, holding a variety of leadership positions, including Vice-President of Mercedes-Benz Financial Services USA and President and CEO of MBFS Canada and Mercedes-Benz Auto Finance China.
“Saint Mary’s gave me the confidence and skills to get along as easily in Beijing as I do in Toronto,” says Fulton. “As life lessons go, that’s hard to beat.”