The University of Michigan community mourns the loss of President Gerald R. Ford, distinguished alumnus and the 38
Ford graduated from U-M in 1935 with a Bachelor of Arts degree 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 was deeply engaged in activities of the University.
Added Teresa A. Sullivan, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, “President Ford lived a life of exemplary public service. In doing so he provided a model for all of us in the university community.”
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.
Ford spent 25 years as a Congressman and several as president, yet always maintained his ties with U-M. In fact, on Sept. 15, 1976, he gave his presidential re-election campaign kick-off speech at a packed Crisler Arena. More than 15,000 people listened to Ford discuss his vision for the future, especially issues such as jobs, housing, education, crime and medical care. “It all adds up to the American dream,” said Ford, who was accompanied by his wife, Betty.
After an illustrious career, Ford taught several political science and policy-making 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.
“The Ford Library and Museum grieves the passing of a deeply respected and much beloved friend," said its director Elaine K. Didier. "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.”
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.
Ford is survived by his wife Elizabeth B. Ford of California; brother Richard A. Ford of Michigan and Florida; 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; and seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
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