The Centennial President
July 8, 2013 | by Rebekah K. Murray
In 1931, Gerald R. Ford (’35) left his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and arrived in Ann Arbor with $200 in his pocket—a $100 scholarship for U-M tuition and $100 worth of wages. To continue to pay his college expenses, Ford held various part-time jobs including one at the University hospital where he waited on tables for medical interns and cleaned the nurses’ cafeteria.
While a student at U-M, Ford spent time at the Big House. He played center as the football team enjoyed consecutive, undefeated national championship seasons in 1932 and 1933. Ford was voted the Wolverine’s most valuable player in 1934. He also played in a college all-star game in January 1935 for the benefit of the Shrine Crippled Children’s Hospital. His jersey, number 48, was retired in 1994.
Ford graduated from the College of LSA with degrees in economics and political science. He received contract offers from both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers but declined to play in the National Football League, deciding to pursue a degree in law instead. To pay for law school at Yale University, Ford took a job there as the boxing coach and assistant varsity football coach. He did attend U-M’s law school for one summer before graduating from Yale.
After his illustrious political career, including 25 years as a Michigan congressman and nearly three years as president, Ford came back to Ann Arbor and taught several political science courses as a visiting LSA professor.
Today, Ford’s name lives on in Ann Arbor. The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library was established in 1981 and, in 1999, U-M’s Institute of Public Administration was re-named the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
Continuing his U-M legacy was important to Ford. “There may be no greater honor than to have a school bear your name,” he said in a prepared statement at the dedication of the Ford School’s Weill Hall. “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.”
Photos: Courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Library