U-M remembers President Gerald R. Ford

January 10, 2007
Contact: Jared Wadley jwadley@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan community mourns the loss of President Gerald R. Ford, distinguished alumnus and the 38th president of the United States, who died Dec. 26. He was 93.

Ford graduated from U-M in 1935 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in economics and political science. He proudly supported the University, making regular visits to the campus?especially to the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.

“I am deeply saddened by his death but grateful for his many years of inspiration to his University,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, who noted that President Ford has for many years been profoundly engaged in activities of the University.

Teresa A. Sullivan, U-M Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, said President Ford gave generously of his time and provided thoughtful counsel on questions of higher education policy, including affirmative action and diversity.

“As a reflective statesman, engaged citizen, and loyal fan of Michigan athletics, he enriched our campus in many ways and we will miss him,” Sullivan said.

A native of Grand Rapids, Mich., Ford arrived at the University in 1931 with $200 in his pocket?$100 for tuition and $100 to use for other expenses “for as long as I could,” he said. He held various part-time jobs to supplement his scholarship.

A gifted athlete, Ford played center on the University’s national championship football teams in 1932 and 1933. He was voted the Wolverine’s most valuable player in 1934 and on Jan. 1, 1935, played in the annual East-West College All-Star game in San Francisco for the benefit of the Shrine Crippled Children’s Hospital. He graduated in 1935 with degrees in economics and political science.

After an illustrious political career, including 25 years as a Congressman and nearly three years as president, Ford taught several political science courses as a visiting professor at U-M.

He donated papers and other important documents to his presidential library, which opened in 1981. The Ford Library is unlike other presidential libraries, which typically feature a museum at the same location. The Ford Museum is in Grand Rapids, the president’s hometown. Ann Arbor was chosen as the site for the library, Ford said, because of its “long-established, diversified and distinguished institution of higher learning.” The library, 1000 Beal Ave., is part of the presidential libraries system administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.

“He wanted both the Library and the Museum to have vibrant educational programs, and he delighted in the thousands of archival research visits made by University of Michigan students and other scholars over the years,” said Elaine K. Didier, director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy has grown in prestige and increased operations since it began in 1914. At that time, the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) was one of the first of its kind nationwide. In 1999 the U-M Board of Regents renamed the school to become the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Rebecca M. Blank, dean of the Ford School, said the school was enriched by its connections with President Ford.

“His visits here helped our students to learn about the complexities of policymaking and to understand the role of politics in our society,” Blank said. “President Ford’s commitment to public service was a hallmark of his entire career.”

In October 2006, President Ford’s family, friends and University community attended the building dedication of the new Ford School of Public Policy, named Joan and Sanford Weill Hall. Since his parents were unable to attend the event, their son Steven read prepared remarks from President Ford. One quote was:
“There may be no greater honor than to have a school bear your name. Such recognition means all the more when it comes from an institution that you love, and when it is dedicated?not to me personally?but to the cause of public service to which I have devoted most of my life.”

Ford will be fondly remembered and admired for his career as a public servant. His tireless dedication and unwavering commitment to his alma mater made him a valued ambassador for the University.

University officials offered these statements of Ford’s impact on U-M:

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman:
“I have had the great privilege of knowing both President Ford and Mrs. Ford. An ardent Michigan football fan, President Ford was equally passionate about interacting with students on issues of public policy and world affairs. He could hold a group of young people with rapt attention about his discussions with legendary world leaders.

“In recognition of President Ford’s contributions to our nation, the University created the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and successfully raised funds to build a magnificent new home for this growing and robust program. President Ford was an enthusiastic participant in this effort and was himself a formidable fund-raiser. In recent years and perhaps most importantly, President Ford was outspoken in his support for our diversity programs through our defense of affirmative action to the Supreme Court.”

Rebecca M. Blank, dean of the Ford School:
“The Ford School community has been enriched by our connections with President Ford. His name is symbolic of those things we most want our students to learn: a commitment to the common good and to the effective design and implementation of policy. President Ford honored us by giving us his name and in turn, we strive to honor his legacy through the excellence of our programs and our commitment to public service.”

Elaine K. Didier, director of the Gerald R. Ford Library and Museum:
“The Ford Library and Museum grieves the passing of a deeply respected and much beloved friend, and our hearts go out to the Ford family, whose loss is so much greater than our own. When President Ford gave his papers to the National Archives, he asked that they be placed at the alma mater he loved so dearly. He wanted both the Library and the Museum to have vibrant educational programs, and he delighted in the thousands of archival research visits made by University of Michigan students and other scholars over the years. President Ford was passionate about promoting the dignity and duty of public service, and encouraging civility and substance in public affairs debate. We will miss him.”

Ford is survived by wife Elizabeth B. Ford of California; children Michael G. (Gayle) Ford of North Carolina, John G. (Juliann) Ford of California, Steven M. Ford of California, and Susan E. (Vaden) Bales of New Mexico; his brother Richard A. Ford of Michigan and Florida, and seven grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

For additional information, contact:
Julie Peterson, University spokeswoman, (734) 936-5190.
Jared Wadley, senior public relations specialist at U-M News Service, (734) 936-7819.
Rebecca Blank, dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, (734) 763-2258.
Elaine Didier, director of Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, (734) 205-0566.

Gerald R. Ford’s ties to the University of Michigan

President Ford’s prepared remarks for the dedication of Weill Hall, home of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, as well as a podcast

President Ford at the groundbreaking for Weil Hall

Ford Presidential Library and Museum