Continuing our primary season series, By: Aaron Joseph. An early life educational quest which eventually turned highly successful, then suave and astute business man turned politician and governor, Willard Milton Romney was born in Detroit, Michigan during 1947. He was named for a best friend of his father, hotel magnate J. Willard Marriott, and a first cousin Chicago Bears quarterback, Milton “Mitt” Romney.
Born into an affluent family of wealth and privilege, “Mitt” was the fourth and youngest child of George W. Romney, a highly successful CEO of American Motors, saving the company from bankruptcy, and soon to be two-term Governor of Michigan. George was Mitt’s childhood hero, and Mitt has idolized his father ever since, seeking to emulate him.
BACKGROUND / EDUCATION:
A: Early Years
Attending Detroit public school during his younger years, Mitt, who at first was known as Billy, but by first grade opted to switch his ‘nickname’ to Mitt, was not a star pupil, and was known as an energetic child who enjoyed pranks. By the 7th grade year, Mitt was enrolled in Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, the exclusive Detroit suburb his family had moved to. The sole Mormon in a school of youngsters some far more privileged then even him, Mitt was not particularly successful in his early academic studies, nor was he noticed for any particular athletic ability. Mitt did receive an award upon graduating Cranbrook high school stating that he was amongst those “whose contributions to school life are often not fully recognized through already existing channels”
B: Teen Years
During his teen years while in high school, and still known to be somewhat of a prankster, Mitt actively campaigned for his father’s first of two successful gubernatorial campaigns and interned during his father’s first administration. During this period, Mitt had a steady set of chores and worked summer jobs, including being a security guard at a Chrysler plant. One political highlight for young Mitt was being present at the 1964 Republican National Convention where his moderate father battled conservative Republican Party nominee Barry Goldwater.
Mitt was arrested for one of his pranks involving sliding down golf courses on large ice cubes. Apparently Mitt was also arrested later on during 1981 when he challenged a ranger from Cochituate State Park in Massachusetts to issue him a ticket for taking out a boat on a the park’s lake. The officer claimed the boat’s license number was covered over. When Mitt challenged the officer and took the boat out, he was arrested for “disorderly conduct.” The charges were dropped a week later, when Mitt threatened to sue the officer and the state for “false arrest.”
C: Post High School – College
Upon graduation from Cranbrook, and in an effort to further his education, Mitt attended one of the most prestigious and selective universities in the world, Stanford University near Palo Alto, California. During the short one year stint that he studied there, Mitt was remembered for his well-groomed appearance, this during the radical “hippy” 60’s, and was also known for enjoying traditional campus events.
D: Mormon Missionary Years:
After his first year at Stanford, during July 1966, Mitt left for 30 months in France as a Mormon missionary, a traditional duty that his father had also done. During his time there, he did not gain many converts and became demoralized. He later stated that “it was the only time when most of what I was trying to do was rejected.”
During his two and a half years in France, Romney was bruised defending two female missionaries against a horde of local rugby players. He was also involved in a horrible car accident in southern France when the car he was driving was hit by another vehicle, seriously injuring, and nearly killing him, and killing one of his passengers, the wife of the mission president. Mitt was not at fault in the accident, although the area nad roads he was driving were considered dangerous.
By the end of his two and a half years in France, Mitt was overseeing the work of 175 fellow members, had became assistant to the mission president in Paris, the highest position for a missioner. During his time there, Mitt developed a lifelong affection for France and its people, and learned how to speak French. Reflectively, Mitt said that his time in France instilled in him a belief that life is fragile and that he personally needed seriousness of purpose. An approach to life that he began to apply.
E: Marriage- College, The Return Part 2- And a Degree- Finally!
Upon returning to the States in 1969, Mitt reunited with and married a Brigham Young University student, Ann Davies, a young woman he knew since elementary school, and who he had informally agreed to marry around the time of his June 1965 graduation from high school.
Mitt and Ann Romney have been married since. Ann Romney took up the occupation of full-time stay at home mom, so as to help assure her husband’s success in all he does. They have five sons.
After his marriage, Mitt enrolled in Brigham Young University as well, and showed a new-found discipline in his studies. Mitt had missed much of the tumultuous American anti-Vietnam War movement while in France, and had initially gotten a student deferment like most other Mormon missionaries. When his deferment ran out, his high number 300 in the December 1969 draft lottery meant he would not be selected.
While at conservative Brigham Young, Mitt did not join the few protests against the Vietnam War, and managed to shy away from most of the upheaval of that era. During his senior year he took leave to help his mother in her unsuccessful 1970 campaign for U.S. Senator from Michigan.
Mitt graduated from Brigham Young in 1971, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and giving the commencement addresses to both his own College of Humanities and to the whole university
In 1971, Mitt enrolled in the joint Jurist Doctor/Master of Business Administration four-year program at Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. During his time there he was considered optimistic, displaying a strong work ethic and a formal demeanor and appearance.
In 1975, he graduated cum laude from the law school, in the top third of that class, and was named a Baker Scholar for graduating in the top five percent of his business school class.
BUSINESS CAREER / RELIGIOUS INVOLVMENT:
Mitt believed that working as a management consultant to a variety of companies would prepare him for a future wish job as a chief executive, so he joined Boston Consulting Group. Shortly thereafter, he left for a more prestigious opportunity at Bain & Company, a management consulting firm in Boston, and a firm in which Mitt became a vice president of in 1978.
With in a few years an opportunity arose for him to co-found a spin-off private equity investment firm, Bain Capital, which focused on venture capital opportunities. His company’s first big success came with a 1986 investment to help start Staples Inc. Mitt excelled at presenting and selling the deals the company made, and was viewed as a fair manager, hence receiving considerable loyalty from the firm’s members.
Mitt left Bain Capital in February 1999 to serve as the President and CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games Organizing Committee. By that time, Bain Capital was on its way to being one of the top private equity firms in the United States, having increased its number of partners from 5 to 18, having 115 employees overall, and having $4 billion under its management
As a result of his business career, by 2007 Mitt and his wife had a net worth of between $190 and $250 million, and an additional blind trust existed in the name of the Romneys’ children and grandchildren that was valued at between $70 and $100 million as of 2007. The figures were much the same as of 2011.
During his years in business, Romney also served in the Belmont, Massachusetts lay clergy for the LDS Church and was known to tithe his income. Mitt took a hands-on role, helping in home and garden maintenance efforts, counseling troubled or burdened church members, and trying to solve social problems among poor Southeast Asian converts From 1986 to 1994 he presided over the Boston Stake, which included more than a dozen Mormon congregations in eastern Massachusetts.
Upcoming- On The Record: Mitt’s Politics and Public Service: Stay Tuned.