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US:Ford heir lavishes record $50 million on Detroit design college

Ford heir lavishes record $50 million on Detroit design college

By Daniel Howes
The Detroit News

In a town arguably too accustomed to multimillion dollar bequests, Henry Ford's sole granddaughter -- Josephine Ford -- left a stunner when she died last June at age 81:

The College for Creative Studies, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, will receive $50 million from her estate, officials announced Sunday at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center.

"It's the largest gift ever given to a private arts college in the United States and the largest ever given to a private college in Michigan," said Rick Rogers, president of the college. "It will make us the best endowed private arts college in the country."

And the gift will cement the legacy of Josephine Ford, the only daughter of Edsel and Eleanor Ford and aunt of Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford Jr., as perhaps southeast Michigan's most generous benefactor.

Philanthropists like Ford, with staunch commitments to the arts and the automotive fabric of Detroit, don't come around much anymore. Nor do they have to do what they do with their money, which makes generosity like hers all the more remarkable.

Over the years, Josephine Ford gave $40 million to the Detroit Institute of Arts; $20 million to CCS in 1997 to build the Walter B. Ford II Building at the college; $15 million for the renovation of Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford; $10 million to endow the Josephine Ford Cancer Center at Henry Ford Hospital.

Her big-dollar contributions and smaller annual gifts to Detroit institutions are "north of $150 million, easy," said David Hempstead, a Ford family attorney with Bodman LLP of Detroit. "She's a very, very generous lady. And very quiet about it -- until the end, when she said it was OK to publicize her gifts to encourage others to give."

It would be hard to overstate Josephine Ford's gift to CCS, an institution she supported so generously because -- unlike the hospital or Dearborn museum named for her grandfather -- it didn't have many friends with very deep pockets.

The College for Creative Studies "was one of their favorite things in the city of Detroit," Lynn Ford Alandt, a niece of Josephine Ford and one of two Ford family members on the college's board of trustees, told me. "It was something that was very special to … her" and her husband, Walter Buhl Ford II.

It must have been because Josephine Ford's donations to CCS exceeded $72 million -- and that for a four-year college whose annual budget is $30 million. When Rogers announced the gift late Sunday afternoon, the crowd cheered and gasped at the same time.

It's a game-changer.

Trustees hailing from Detroit's automakers and their rivals, most notably Toyota Motor Corp., gushed at Josephine Ford's bequest and the prospect of what it would mean for the college, its study of art and the teaching of automotive design.

"This is absolutely amazing," Chrysler Group President Tom LaSorda said, adding that Detroit's No. 3 automaker can claim some 50 CCS graduates among its designers, past and present. "This sets up the school for generations to come."

Said Jim Press, president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A: "This really shows the Ford family's commitment to the arts." And to deepening the talent pool that Detroit's automakers and companies like Toyota, Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Corp. are hiring to work in Michigan and elsewhere.

The bequest will vault CCS's endowment to $62 million from $12 million. Earnings from the principal will be used to increase financial aid, expand the faculty, invest in state-of-the-art technology and bolster educational programming.

CCS grads sit at the heart of today's global industry. The head of Toyota's CALTY design studio who's credited with the 2005 Toyota Avalon, Kevin Hunter, is a CCS grad. So is Chrysler's vice president of design, Dave McKinnon, a Ralph Gilles, father of the Chrysler 300.

GM has 130 CCS graduates in studios around the world, including 12 who joined GM last year. CCS graduates helped design the Pontiac Solstice, the Buick Lucerne, the Hummer H3 and the all-new Cadillac Escalade, coming later this year.

Just three years after Henry Ford founded his auto company, CCS began life in 1906 as Detroit's Society of Arts and Crafts. Now, CCS offers degrees in 11 fields of study and provides art education to thousands of Detroit's youth.

That, too, will be the legacy of Josephine Ford, known as "Dody" to her friends and family. Born in 1923, she was the only sister of Henry Ford II, the legendary CEO, and William Clay Ford, owner of the Detroit Lions and father of Ford's sitting CEO.

In 1943, she married Walter Buhl Ford II (no relation) and lived a comparatively quiet life of philanthropy and occasional pranks that included stowing live lobsters in the beds of her children and grandchildren, according to family biographers.

Unlike two of her brothers and at least two of her nephews, she never took an active role in the affairs of Ford Motor even as she remained a major shareholder. At her death on June 1, she held 18 percent of the automaker's Class B shares, valued at the time at roughly $133 million.

She's still giving it away.

"Our gratitude to her," said CCS's Rogers, "is beyond words."

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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