‘U’ has yet to announce plans for a memorial event
Mourners have said goodbye to former President Gerald Ford in ceremonies across the nation, but the University has yet to announce any plans for a tribute to its most famous alum.
“There are plans, but a date and location haven’t been finalized,” said Jared Wadley, a University spokesman. “Right now it’s still national mourning.”
Wadley said it could still be one to two weeks before any plans are made and announced to the public.
Fraternity brother has fond memories of time with Ford
Indianapolis attorney Earl Townsend, 92, knew Gerald Ford firsthand during his time at the University – they were roommates during their sophomore and junior years in the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity house.
A transfer student from DePauw University, Townsend said he was a “lost soul on campus” until Ford reached out to him and introduced him to the fraternity.
Once Townsend became a DKE brother, his friendship with the future president blossomed. Townsend and Ford washed dishes together for about an hour after all three meals each day in exchange for room and board.
They bonded over their dedication to sports. Townsend starred on Michigan’s varsity basketball team, while Ford was a football standout. And though both were talented athletes, Townsend said both he and Ford maintained excellent grades.
Even though Ford received offers from both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers to play football, he turned them down to study law and coach football at Yale. Townsend said Ford “wanted to get his education more than anything football.”
Townsend said his favorite memories of the former president are of the times he accompanied Ford to his home in Grand Rapids, where they would take girls on double dates at area nightclubs.
After graduating from the University, Townsend and Ford continued to stay in touch.
Townsend said one of the highlights came when his old roommate visited him at his Indianapolis home while serving as president. Townsend also visited Ford in the White House several times.
Townsend said that during his presidency and beyond, “(Ford) never changed. He was always a regular guy.”
Ford’s last visit to ‘U’ was scheduled for October
Despite plans to come to the dedication of the University’s Weill Hall – which houses the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy – for what would have been his last visit to campus in October, former President Gerald Ford canceled due to health complications.
At the time of the dedication, Ford, who graduated in 1935, was 93 and in declining health. University spokesman Jared Wadley said Ford did not “feel strong enough” to attend.
As late as three days before, University officials expected Ford to come to the dedication.
In an interview at 3 p.m. on Oct. 10, University President Mary Sue Coleman said that as far as she knew, he was coming.
“It’s a day-by-day thing,” Coleman said then. “I haven’t heard that he’s not going to be here, so I’m optimistic.”
At the time, Ford was the oldest living president. In late August, he was hospitalized for more than two weeks when doctors performed an angioplasty to reduce or eliminate blockages in his coronary arteries.
In September, Coleman said Ford told her the thought of the new building was the secret to his longevity.
“He’s told us the building is what’s been keeping him alive for the last two years,” Coleman said.
Ford tracked the building’s construction regularly through a live webcam on the School of Public Policy’s website.
“It’s been a treat for Mom and Dad to see the construction of Joan and Sanford Weill Hall through the webcam,” Steven Ford, their son, said in a written statement.
Members of Ford’s family attended the invitation-only dedication.
From the Oct. 12 Daily