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The Source

Michael Ford to retire after 38 years

May 12, 2014

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    Associate Vice President for Campus Life Michael Ford
After 38 years working in various offices across the Lewis & Clark campus, Associate Vice President for Campus Life Michael Ford is retiring. The Source sat down with Ford to learn more about the scope of his career and to get his take on what makes Lewis & Clark tick.

“I’ve done a lot of things,” Ford said. “My career is very unusual in my field because I’ve been able to have so many different positions at one school. And I’ve never had a day when I haven’t enjoyed my work, and I’ve never had a day when I haven’t been challenged.” 

In this video, Ford talks about specific student initiatives he is proud to have supported such as reorganizing student government to create the Student Academic Affairs Board (SAAB) and helping to establish College Outdoors.

Tell us how you landed your first job at Lewis & Clark.

I applied for the director of residence life position here in 1976. I had a good interview, they liked me, and I was sitting on the back of the patio of the Manor House, looking at Mount Hood, and feeling like it would be great to work here when the then-Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs Dick Sorenson came out and said, “Michael, you interviewed great, everybody likes you, and we’re not hiring you for this position.” 

“Didn’t see that one coming,” I said.

“Yeah, we’re hiring the other candidate, who was internal,” Sorenson said.

Well, that was my pivotal moment. I could have said, “Thanks for the interview,” but I didn’t. Instead I said, “Given the fact that the internal candidate is now being promoted to this job, and given the fact that this campus and I seem to get along pretty well, I’d like to put my hat in the ring for that job.”

And at that point Dick Sorensen said, “Huh…That’s a good idea. Can you stick around a couple more days?”

So I said, “Sure.”

You’ve had more than 10 different jobs on campus. What can you tell us about the arc of your career here?

I’ve done a lot of things. My career is very unusual in my field because I’ve been able to have so many different positions at one school. And I’ve never had a day when I haven’t enjoyed my work, and I’ve never had a day when I haven’t been challenged. 

I’ve worked with students, faculty, alumni, trustees. I’ve worked for five presidents and the interim presidents. Some of my previous students are now trustees, so I’ve known them since they were undergrads. My role here has always been to collaborate, help create, help sustain, and help renew. Sometimes I nudge and prod, sometimes I ask questions that aren’t particularly pleasant for people to hear, but I try to act diplomatically, and I try to always do it in a context of continuous improvement.

Can you sum up for us your impression of Lewis & Clark and describe what makes this place tick?

What I’ve seen is a substantial history of ongoing creativity, initiation, and collaboration. We always build on what came before. All you have to do is take a look at the lectureships, the symposia, and look at the word “annual.” Somebody had to start all those. And those were students, typically, and these enduring traditions are student funded. That didn’t just happen—it happened because of a lot of hard work along the way. So you can’t ever take that for granted, that just because you got to number one or two you’re going to stay there. Or just because we’re in the top 100 or top 75 or wherever we are now in somebody’s list. You have to create an environment that says to people, “You can own this place, this place is designed for you to make a difference,” and then do everything you can as a staff member, and a faculty member, to help draw students out, so that they can be liberally educated in arts and sciences, and so that they can indeed make a difference.

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