In addition to running breeding farm, he has won 15 races
When good fortune shines, its rays fall on Bill Mulligan ’52. The retired executive vice president of Ingersoll Rand saw his career move from a ditch to the boardroom, and his boyhood love of horses turn into success as a racehorse breeder and harness racer.
That success wasn’t always assured. Mulligan won a football scholarship to Lafayette only to see it vanish after a knee injury. Determined to succeed, he worked his way through school. He hoped to get a mechanical engineering degree, but with those classes full, he switched to mining engineering with intentions to try mechanical later. To his surprise, his reluctant major grabbed him.
“I was the luckiest guy in the world,” he says of a career path that took him to Ingersoll Rand after graduation. Starting at the bottom of the employment hierarchy at the construction equipment company, he demonstrated rock drills to construction and mining companies. A series of breaks moved him to sales. When a struggling distributor of Ingersoll Rand products faltered against a competitor, Mulligan was charged with bringing it under the company aegis. Success in that new venture led to a newly created division manager position, with Mulligan eventually rising to executive vice president. He retired in 1995 after 43 years.
Today, Mulligan runs Marion Farms, a 210-acre racehorse breeding facility in New Hope, Pa. As a boy, he watched his father handle trotters. “Ever since that time,” he says, “I’ve had a passion for horses.”
And he knows a fine horse when he sees it. Spellbound Hanover, a filly he purchased for only $35,000, later returned nearly a million dollars in winnings in her career. Mulligan admits, though, that running a racehorse farm isn’t for the fainthearted. “I let my emotions enter into my decisions with a horse, and I think you have to be careful about your emotions when running a business for profit,” he explains.
As a breeder, Mulligan works with just under three dozen mares and foals. Though he enjoys breeding horses and finding that elusive champion, he harbors a greater desire: “I’ve always had a keen interest in driving them.”
Now 77, Mulligan actively competes as a harness racer through the Delvin Miller Amateur Driving Association. In 2005, he finished second in total race points for the season. Driving his own horse, Sophia Let’s Go, he won the prestigious amateur race at The Meadowlands during the run-up to the Hambletonian. In 100 races against pros and amateurs, Mulligan’s notched more than 15 wins, with numerous places and shows.
“That’s what makes this exciting and keeps me going after all these years,” he says.