Gerald J. Ford is a former chair of the SMU Board of Trustees, Convening Co-chair of The Second Century Campaign and has served on numerous other SMU boards and committees. He was honored with SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995 and the Mustang Award in 1997. One of the nation’s most accomplished financial services executives, Mr. Ford currently is chair of Diamond A Ford Corporation. This Campaign Q&A is the fourth of six interviews with campaign co-chairs appearing in the final editions of Campaign Update.
Campaign Update: How would you characterize the impact of The Second Century Campaign upon SMU thus far?
Ford: First and foremost, it is important in terms of the sheer size of the amount raised and what those funds can be used for in furtherance of the University’s goals, whether with regard to academic programs, students, faculty or the campus experience. Second, when a University achieves something as large and successful as this, it provides additional energy moving forward. Finally, the goal of the previous campaign – A Time to Lead – was at one level, and the goal of The Second Century Campaign was at a significantly higher level. The compounding effect of those successes is tremendous for the University.
CU: The original Second Century Campaign goal was $750 million, and it was later increased to $1 billion. How would you describe the accomplishment of raising $1 billion, months before the scheduled end of the campaign?
Ford: I think it’s huge. When we settled upon $750 million as the original goal, it was not without some considerable thought, because we believed it was ambitious. We also were making some of these decisions at a time of financial stress. The fact that we increased the goal to $1 billion and now have achieved it is remarkable. The campaign’s success reflects a deep confidence in the institution and demonstrates its growing prominence.
CU: To whom would you say thank you for this success?
Ford: First, I would say thank you to the donors, because ultimately it is they who made this extraordinary achievement possible. I think there is something special about SMU’s alumni, and they played a very important role throughout the campaign. Significant credit goes to the campaign volunteers who have worked very hard and been so integral to this process. Finally, no one has contributed more to the campaign’s success than President Turner and his administrative team.
CU: How does achieving the goal position SMU for future growth?
Ford: I think reaching the campaign goal is a real harbinger of future success. It raises the bar for any future development initiatives, and that’s significant. It also creates a kind of synergy with the University’s respective constituencies that bodes well for the future.
CU: How do you see the SMU of the future?
Ford: Success breeds success, and I am very optimistic about the University’s future. SMU’s progress during the past 10 years has been truly astonishing. I believe that momentum will only accelerate, and that the University will continue to get better in every way. Those who have supported The Second Century Campaign have set the stage for even greater things to come.