In most cases, an appearance by Paul O’Neill, whose name is
probably on a dollar bill in your wallet right now, would be
headline news in itself.
But yesterday, the former Treasury secretary’s keynote speech at
the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy site dedication was
overshadowed by the attendance of the program’s namesake, perhaps
the University’s most famous alumnus.
Former President Gerald Ford was the center of attention at the
ceremony, which took place in Rackham Auditorium. Attending with
his wife Betty and son Jack, Ford received multiple standing
ovations, and University President Mary Sue Coleman lauded his
72-year relationship with Michigan, which “represents almost half
of the entire history of the University.”
Ford shared memories from his time at the University with the
“I will forever be most grateful to this University for giving
me a good education,” Ford said.
“The background and solid education I got from this great
University gave me the ability to perform my responsibilities,
first in the U.S. Congress, and second as vice president,” as well
as in his presidency from 1974 to 1977, Ford said.
Ford also praised architect Robert Stern’s design for the new
School of Public Policy building, and even remarked on the success
of the Michigan football team, for which he played center and
linebacker while attending the University. “I thought it was pretty
nice last Saturday,” he said, referring to the defeat of Notre
Dame, and evoking applause from the audience.
Ford’s comments came after O’Neill spoke on the need to base
public policy decision making on moral values. “This is something
we desperately need to teach people going into, not only the public
sector, but the private as well,” O’Neill said. After serving in
the Ford administration, O’Neill held several executive positions
in the private sector. He returned to public office as President
Bush’s secretary of the Treasury in 2001, but resigned last
Throughout the speech, O’Neill frequently praised Ford, in whose
administration he served as an adviser and deputy director of the
Office of Management and Budget. Before making decisions, O’Neill
said he always tells himself: “Whatever you do, make sure President
Ford would be proud.”
Ford, the 38th President of the United States, attended the
University from 1931 to 1935. During Ford’s tenure, the team twice
won the National Championship, and he was named Most Valuable
Player, among other honors. He graduated with degrees in economics
and political science, and later attended Yale Law School.
The Ford School of Public Policy’s future location will be on
the northeast corner of State and Hill Streets, and will house five
research centers, as well as classrooms and offices. It will
consolidate the Ford School, which is currently spread over three
locations, and also possibly allow for the creation of an
undergraduate policy program.
Ford School Dean Rebecca Blank called the prominent location “a
clear indicator of the importance the University has placed on
public policy.” Prof. Edie Goldenberg, who teaches political
science and public policy at the Ford School, considered the
placement symbolic. “It’s going to be the entrance to the campus,
the gateway from the south of the school,” Goldenberg said.
Founded in 1914 and originally named the Institute of Public
Administration, the current Ford School went through several name
changes before being dedicated after the former president in
Although building designs were approved in June, the starting
date for construction has yet to be set, as funding for the $32
million project is still under way.