Susan Ford Bales shares stories of her dad

Education was very important to my dad; he studied very hard for his good grades, it didn't come naturally to him, said Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford.


Bales was the featured speaker at The Education of Gerald R. Ford, a College of Education 50th Anniversary Gold Lecture Series event held April 15 at the L. William Seidman Center.

Bales spent an hour sharing stories about her fathers life, how he grew up in Grand Rapids and attended South High School and then the University of Michigan and Yale Law School. She was joined by Hendrik Booraem, author of Young Jerry Ford: Athlete and Citizen. The event was moderated by Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies.

Bales said her father was very proud of being a Boy Scout and Eagle Scout, and said playing sports was very important to him. Sports offered my dad a way to learn discipline and structure and alleviate energy, said Bales. We played a lot of tennis together.

President Ford was known to struggle with his temper and with stuttering when he was young. My dad thought the world of his mother and his mother would tell him to look in the mirror when he was angry. That helped him control it, said Bales.

President Ford was left handed and for a time he was forced to use his right hand in school. When they finally let him use his left hand, he stopped stuttering, said Booraem.

During his presidency, Ford signed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975, which provided equal access to education for children with physical and mental disabilities. My mother was very involved with handicapped children and that involvement started in Grand Rapids, said Bales. My mother taught dance to handicapped children and I think she had something to do with dad signing the act.