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December 27, 2006

President Gerald Ford passes away

Gerald R. Ford, the United States' 38th President and former Michigan football most valuable player, passed away Dec. 26 at the age of 93. Ford, a center on the 1932-34 Michigan teams coached by Harry Kipke, remained a true Michigan Man until his death …

Ford was best known, of course, for his accomplishments in the White House after succeeding Richard Nixon to become the nation's only unelected president, but history will remember him as one of the most accomplished athletes ever to have sat in the Oval Office. He earned three varsity letters and two national titles in Ann Arbor (1932-33) after captaining the football team at Grand Rapids South High School as an all-state center in his senior year (1930).

In 1934, his senior year at Michigan, he won team MVP honors. He maintained his interest in Michigan football even during the height of his presidency, taking in team practices surrounded by Secret Service. He befriended the late Bo Schembechler for several years and was among those to issue a statement on the legendary head coach when Schembechler passed away a day before the Michigan - Ohio State game.

"Bo Schembechler was an outstanding citizen in every respect," Ford said at the time. "He was a dear friend of ours and will be greatly missed by his numerous friends. It is a great loss to the University of Michigan in particular and football in general."

Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr said Ford would also be missed.

"Our nation has lost a great American and a President who decided at the most critical time, a path that was unselfish and in the best interest of his country; truly a profile in courage," Carr said through a statement released by the University. "At Michigan we have lost a legendary figure who represented the highest ideals of the 'Michigan Man' - a gentleman who was integrity personified. We love him and we will miss him, but we are compensated by the knowledge that his spirit and his love for the University of Michigan will endure.

"On behalf of the Michigan football team, I want to extend our condolences to the Ford family."

Ford turned down offers from the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers to play in the National Football League to attend Yale University to become an assistant football and boxing coach, eventually being accepted into Yale Law School. He never forgot his roots, however, and remained a Wolverine until the end.

"We have lost a true Michigan man with the passing of former president Gerald Ford," Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said. "His life-long love of this university will be remembered for years to come. From a personal view, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to know President Ford. We all knew he was a great statesman, but we also should remember he was a great athlete and even greater Michigan man."


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