Steve Ford said he was honored to accept the first ever Col. Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship award on behalf of his father, President Gerald R. Ford. Steve, chairman of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, accepted the award at a special ceremony held March 15 in Loosemore Auditorium in the DeVos Center.
"I am humbled to represent our family," said Steve. "Col. Hauenstein, it is an extreme honor for Dad's name to be connected to you. You are both from the same generation, a great generation, the best generation. We have so much to learn from you."
Steve told a group of students in the audience from Gerald Ford Middle School that becoming a man or woman of character doesn't happen overnight. "My Dad didn't become a great leader or a man of character the day he become president," Steve said. "Dad developed character when he was young, in seventh or eighth grade like you. He was influenced by great mentors in his life. The seeds you plant today are what you will harvest later."
Ralph Hauenstein said Ford, his longtime friend from high school, was a wonderful man. "I am more than pleased that this award is being given to Jerry," said Hauenstein. "By every measure he meets the highest requirements of this fellowship. I remember Jerry very well. I played football against him 81 years ago — greatest mistake I ever made. We all pay tribute to this great man for his leadership to our country. The bar has been set high for future recipients of this award."
President Thomas J. Haas said the fellowship is Grand Valley’s most prestigious award. "As we celebrate Grand Valley's 50th anniversary, I thought it appropriate to establish Grand Valley's most prestigious fellowship in Ralph Hauenstein's name," said Haas. "Col. Hauenstein is an ethical, effective leader who has made a significant difference in our world. All of our lives have been enriched by his example of leadership."
The fellowship will be awarded each year to leaders who have led the U.S. at the highest levels.
Hauenstein will celebrate his 99th birthday on March 20. Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1912, he moved to Grand Rapids at the age of 12. In 1934, he was commissioned in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and became commander of an all African American Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Michigan. After two-and-a-half years, Hauenstein returned to civilian life and became city editor of the Grand Rapids Herald.
During World War II, he rose to the rank of colonel and served under Gen. Dwight Eisenhower as chief of the Intelligence Branch in the Army’s European theater of operations. In 1945, he was among the first Americans into liberated Paris, war-torn Germany, and Nazi concentration camps. During the Eisenhower administration, Hauenstein served as a consultant on the President’s Advisory Commission.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate at Grand Valley in 2004 and was awarded the 2006 Slykhouse Lifetime Achievement Award by the Economic Club of Grand Rapids. Hauenstein also wrote a book about his military service called, “Intelligence Was My Line.” His generosity made possible the founding of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, whose mission is to inspire a new generation of leaders devoted to public service.