The nation’s 38th president visited his alma mater countless times throughout his lengthy career in public service and afterward. (Read about other Ford visits to campus.)
Ford, who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from U-M in 1935, was vice president when he received an honorary degree and delivered the commencement speech in May 1974. Three months later he would become president following Richard Nixon’s resignation.
Ford became the second sitting chief executive to speak at U-M when he launched his re-election campaign at a packed Crisler Arena on Sept. 15, 1976. “I would rather run against Jimmy Carter than Harlan Huckleby any day of the week,” Ford said, referring to the U-M running back.
In seeking another term in office, Ford pledged to build a strong national economy, make it easier for Americans to buy homes, and ensure that a college education be affordable for families.
“In this year of 1976, I stand before you as the last president of America’s first 200 years. But with your help, I also intend to be the first president of America’s new generation of freedom.”
Ford returned to campus three months later—and one month after being defeated at the polls by Carter—to watch his wife, Betty, receive an honorary degree at Winter Commencement.
Ford last visited campus on Nov. 12, 2004, for groundbreaking ceremonies for Joan and Sanford Weill Hall, the home of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
Sources: Public Papers of the Presidents, Office of the Federal Register; U-M records
Photos: Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan