Nov. 19, 1999

Former President Gerald Ford said he remembers sitting on the steps of the Michigan Union in September 1931 waiting to make friends.

Sitting yesterday in the Union’s Kuenzel Room, Ford said it was an honor to be back in Ann Arbor at the end of the 20th Century.

The 86-year-old former president was on campus attending yesterday’s meeting of the University Board of Regents. The board unanimously approved a proposal to name the School of Public Policy after Ford.

“It is very overwhelming to sit here and think back to September of 1931,” he said, recalling when tuition for two semesters was $100 and women weren’t allowed in the Union.

The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy will become the second school at the University to be named after a former student since June.

“The naming of a school is a historic decision,” University President Lee Bollinger said. “There must be a close and deep connection between the person and the school,” noting Ford’s loyalty to the University is “deep and abiding.”

In June, the regents dedicated the College of Architecture and Urban Planning to Bloomfield Hills shopping mall mogul A. Alfred Taubman, who donated $30 million to the college.

Bollinger, the regents and Public Policy Dean Rebecca Blank said the renaming of the Public Policy school will give the University’s smallest and newest school a necessary boost.

“It’s the right time to take a new name and Gerald R. Ford is the right name to take,” Blank said.

Blank, who was appointed dean this spring, announced a new fundraising campaign and said she has big plans for the expanding school.

“This naming opportunity doesn’t come at a better time in our history,” Blank said. “Our challenge in the next few years is to build on this.” She added that she hopes to increase the stature of the University’s school among the other great centers of public policy study across the nation.

“One of my goals is to convince those in Washington that Ann Arbor is closer than Boston,” she said.

Ford said too he has high hopes for the school that now bears his name.

“I will do all that I can to make the School of Public Policy one of the best on campus and on a national basis,” Ford said.

Bollinger and the regents had many kind words for Ford, reflecting on his service to the state and nation as a U.S. House representative, vice president and president of the nation.

“It is very, very difficult to find the middle ground in our society or community … we know that he found it during the time he was president,” Bollinger said, adding that Ford held the nation together after the Watergate scandal.

Regent Andrea Fischer-Newman (R-Ann Arbor), a University student when Ford became president, said Ford gave her and others hope during the uncertain times of Watergate.

His presidency impacted University students by inspiring them “to imagine what we could become,” Newman said. “You handled a nation during a time of torment,” she told Ford.

Regent S. Martin Taylor (D-Grosse Pointe Farms) echoed Fischer-Newman’s comments.

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