DETROIT - The legacies of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison are once again intersecting, 115 years after the legendary American innovators struck up what would become a lifelong friendship.
Alan Mulally, president and CEO of the company Ford founded, the Ford Motor Co., is to receive the Edison Achievement Award at a ceremony in New York on Tuesday.
"I'm really excited about the recognition that Alan Mulally is receiving as a 2011 Edison Achievement Awards recipient. The Ford Motor Company has an extraordinary history," said Sarah Miller Caldicott, Edison's great-grandniece and chairwoman of the Edison Awards steering committee.
Caldicott said the awards, which honor innovation and date back to 1987, haven't honored the automaker previously.
Ford, the company, also is nominated for a number of awards at Tuesday's ceremony - for its MyFord Touch, MyKey, SYNC AppLink and rear inflatable seat belt technologies.
Mulally, who has been Ford's CEO since 2006, said he will accept the award "on behalf of the skilled and motivated Ford team."
"The relationship between Henry Ford and Thomas Edison inspired generations to dream of the possible," he said in a statement. "Through the spirit of innovation and the commitment to continuous improvement, we are delivering on the original and compelling vision of Henry Ford to 'Open the Highways to All Mankind.'"
Caldicott said it's particularly fitting to reconnect the Ford and Edison names in this way.
"Henry Ford was really pivotal in ensuring that America remembered Edison as one of the world's greatest inventors and innovators," she said, noting the automotive pioneer's efforts to reconstruct his friend's Menlo Park, N.J., laboratory in Dearborn, Mich., in the 1920s.
To this day, Edison's reconstructed lab still has a home at The Henry Ford historical attraction in the Detroit suburb.
Ford and Edison met in 1896 at the annual meeting of the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies, which took place in New York. Edison later became a mentor to Ford and encouraged his friend's work as an inventor and businessman.
The Edison Awards steering committee said it picked Mulally because of "the boldness of vision and leadership he has brought" to Ford and that he's "widely credited with having led the turnaround in the company's performance during the worst economic crisis in decades."
John Hendricks, founder and chairman of Discovery Communications, also will be awarded the Edison Achievement Award on Tuesday. He created the Discovery Channel in 1985. Its stable of companies now encompasses more than 100 networks, representing 27 entertainment brands, including Science Channel, TLC and Animal Planet.
Past recipients of the honor, which is given to leaders who have made significant contributions to "innovation, marketing and human-centered design throughout their careers," include Martha Stewart and Ted Turner.