In 2006 Crain’s Detroit named Frank Fountain the region’s number-one “most connected” person—the local leader who had forged the most connections through civic and nonprofit board service. For Fountain, who is Daimler-Chrysler’s Group Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Public Policy, being connected is part of his job. But it’s also who he is.

“Most of the success that I have experienced throughout my career can be traced back to the intense, challenging, sometimes painful, but always inspiring experience in my two years in West Bengal, India,” Fountain has said of the time he spent in the Peace Corps from 1966 to 1968. His work there helped farmers produce a record-breaking rice harvest and introduced handicraft makers to marketing.

Creative, resourceful, and cognizant of local, national, and international communities’ connections, Fountain was born in 1944 Brewton, AL, as the oldest of seven children in a struggling farm family. He learned early the benefits of “working hard and working smart,” attributes that helped him to earn a bachelor’s degree in history and political science in 1966 from Virginia’s Hampton University.

By 1973, after returning to the U.S., Fountain earned his Wharton MBA, then landed a job at Chrysler as an investment analyst. By 1995 he was appointed vice president for government affairs, ascending to the position of senior vice president after the 1998 merger of Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Corp. He also oversees community relations and educational programs as president of the Daimler-Chrysler Corporation Fund. In his professional role, Fountain oversees the distribution of more than $20 million in grants annually, aimed at developing a skilled workforce, ensuring community vitality, and encouraging employee involvement.

In his private life, Fountain is busy on many boards, especially those that support the Detroit community, including Detroit Public Schools, and development and health care in Africa, including the Corporate Council on Africa and Africare, which address HIV-AIDS and other issues. Fountain is also a Wharton Overseer.