Sept. 13, 2000
Sixty-five years after Gerald Ford graduated from the University, the former president returned to campus yesterday, bringing with him a legacy of public service as well as friends, family and former members of his administration.
Ford”s experiences and lifetime achievements were recognized by the University as he accepted the honor of having the School of Public Policy renamed after him.
Despite a stroke suffered while attending the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia last month, the fragile Ford mustered up enough energy to travel to Ann Arbor for the Hill Auditorium ceremony.
“I”m profoundly grateful,” Ford said after a parade of esteemed state and University officials, including Gov. John Engler, University President Lee Bollinger, Public Policy Dean Rebecca Blank and University Regent Rebecca McGowan, spoke of the former president”s legacy.
Many state politicians were in the audience, and among the family, friends and some former members of his administration who shared in the event including his wife, Betty, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who assured the audience his warm sentiments described a man he considers not just an employer but a friend.
Kissinger, as keynote speaker at yesterday”s ceremony, spoke of Ford”s personal qualities as an attribute in leading the nation during the tumultuous period after Richard Nixon resigned from office and in his dealings with the foreign policy conflicts in the Soviet Union, Middle East and China.
“We have never had a more self-effacing president a president who has thought more of public service than of himself,” Kissinger said.
Bollinger also stressed Ford”s strengths as a leader and mentor for Public Policy students who will study in the school that bears his name.
“President Ford is known for what is most important in public policy character,” Bollinger said, adding that this quality is an example of the many ideals that the School of Public Policy hopes to instill in its students.
Bollinger emphasized the need to carry with the school the legacy of one of the University”s most famous graduates.