Mike Ford: 'Spirit and essence' of President Ford embedded in renovated Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse

Jan. 14, 2019 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The “spirit and essence” of President Gerald R. Ford is embedded in Grand Rapids Community College’s renovated Ford Fieldhouse, Mike Ford said in rededicating the building on Monday.

Ford, son of President Ford and first lady Betty Ford, was joined by community leaders, students and GRCC staff in celebrating the transformation of the fieldhouse to enhance learning, support student-athletes’ performance, and create a more comfortable environment for spectators and community events.

Ford, the oldest of the four Ford children, recently completed a career in higher education, serving the past 36 years in multiple leadership roles at Wake Forest University. He said the Ford Fieldhouse is one of the “most impressive, most well-functioning, and well-equipped” facilities of its kind that he’s seen, and his father would be pleased to see how the building has changed – and how it is used.

“I believe that the spirit and the essence of my father, Gerald Ford, really is embedded in this place, in all of the things will be going on, the beautiful interactions and transformational dynamics of people coming together, coming together competing, of being educated, developing themselves in mind, body and spirit,” Ford said. “That is who my father was, and that would give him great joy. It means a great deal to me personally, and it means a great deal to my family, for this place to come to life and to bear my father’s name.”

Ford was joined in the rededication ceremony by District Court Judge Sara J. Smolenski, a student-athlete at what was then Grand Rapids Junior College and a member of the first women’s basketball team to play in the newly opened Ford Fieldhouse in 1976.

Smolenski said attending GRJC and competing in the Ford Fieldhouse gave her confidence to “dream the dream and do what I want to do.” Even though she went on to play at University of Michigan, Smolenski said her “best days playing ball were right here in this fieldhouse.”

The Ford Fieldhouse, 111 Lyon St. NE, underwent $8 million in renovations starting in May, creating a state-of-the-art facility for Exercise Science Department classes, GRCC athletics, commencement and public events.

The work includes extensive upgrades to the Gordon Hunsburger Arena and the Paganelli Foyer, and members of both families attended the rededication.

New features include air conditioning throughout the building, creating a comfortable environment for students and spectators year round and other upgrades making the facility better suited for hosting local and national events, such as the NJCAA Region XII basketball tournament in March.

The building has additional classroom space and upgrades and new equipment in the Fitness Center, used by student-athletes and students, faculty and staff and community members belonging to the Health Club.

 Student-athletes will experience modernized locker rooms with increased seating and technology for study and game preparation, along with an updated athletic training room.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.


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