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Ford chairman to speak at commencement

This year’s commencement ceremony will feature an American businessman with a drive for leadership, environmental awareness and strategy – William Clay Ford, Jr.

Ford is the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, as well as the great-grandson of Henry Ford, the company’s founder and pioneer of the assembly line. Ford will present the keynote address at the commencement ceremony on May 12 and will be awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the ceremony.

“Personally, I’m really happy for Bradley and the students that we’re having Mr. Ford,” Vice President for Student Affairs Alan Galsky said. “It’s good to have someone with a big name and from one of the great American families. We’re looking forward to having him.”

Ford has held a variety of positions since joining the company in 1979, including manufacturing, sales, marketing, product development and finance.

A lifelong environmentalist, Ford has led the company in a number of environmentally-friendly projects, including publishing the company’s first report on the impacts of Ford products and operations, completing the world’s largest brownfield reclamation project in metropolitan Detroit and supporting the Ford Escape Hybrid, the world’s first hybrid-electric sport utility vehicle.

On a recreational scale, Ford is the vice chairman of the Detroit Lions and led efforts to build the environmentally-friendly Ford Field. In addition, Ford holds positions in various Detroit boards and clubs.

Galsky said Ford fit all the criteria Bradley looks for in a commencement speaker.

“We look for someone who is, in general, well-known to most people,” he said. “We also want someone who is successful in his or her professional area. If there is a more [well-known] American company than Ford, then I don’t know it.”

Bradley asked Ford to speak because of his many endeavors, said Shelley Epstein, Vice President for Communications.

“Mr. Ford was asked to be our commencement speaker because of his many outstanding professional accomplishments and his broad business and academic background,” he said.

Senior mathematics major Greg Van Asch said Ford will have credible knowledge on today’s economy.

“To be honest, I was unaware as to who the speaker would be,” he said. “Knowing it is the chairman of Ford, I feel that his address to the graduating class could be about the state of the economy.  As a chairman of such a large company, I’m sure he has some insight that he might try to pass onto us.”

Epstein said Ford is an expert in finances for his company.

“As the Ford chairman of the board since 1998, he has led the company through unprecedented economic times, three consecutive full-year profits and the largest profit in 13 years in 2011,” he said.

Other students said having a famous name at the ceremony will bring attention to Bradley, even though Ford is not directly connected to the university.

“I think he’s a good candidate because he has a big, easily recognizable name which will grant a lot of publicity, but I’m not really sure what his connection to Bradley is, if any,” said senior economics major Mike Milius.

Overall, Epstein said Bradley will benefit from hosting Ford at the commencement ceremony.

“Mr. Ford is an innovative thinker, a compassionate leader, a generous philanthropist and a committed environmentalist,” he said. “I hope our graduates and their families will be inspired by Mr. Ford’s remarks to make a difference in their communities and in our world.”

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