After more than four decades of Ford family absence, the New York-based Ford Foundation announced that Henry Ford III – great-great-grandson of Henry Ford and great-grandson of the organization’s founder, Edsel Ford – is joining its board of trustees.
Ford currently serves as a member of the Ford Motor Co.’s corporate strategy team. Since joining the company in 2006, he has spent time in labor relations, as a member of the UAW-Ford negotiations team; in purchasing, as a vehicle programs analyst; and in marketing and sales, working in global product marketing, as the Lincoln marketing lead for the western United States, and as the global marketing manager for Ford Performance.
Prior to joining the automaker, Ford worked for Carney, Sandoe, and Assoc., where he recruited new teachers and helped place them in schools across the country. He then became a teacher himself, teaching middle school and high school math and history. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and a MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management.
“I am honored to become a member of the board of trustees of the Ford Foundation,” says Ford. “The foundation’s commitment to ending inequality and building a fair and inclusive economy is more critical today than ever before, and it is impossible to overstate its role in reinvigorating the city of Detroit. I am both eager and honored to join my fellow trustees in shepherding the foundation my family created more than 80 years ago.”
Ford III becomes the first Ford to sit on the foundation’s b since his grandfather, Henry Ford II, resigned in 1976 after 33 years of service. Henry Ford II created the modern Ford Foundation, guiding it on a process of becoming independent — first in giving it an international mission, then in expanding the board beyond the family, followed by the foundation’s move to New York City in 1953, and eventually through the divestment of its holdings in Ford stock.
Ford brings experience in the social sector to his role as trustee. He has served on the boards of schools in Michigan and Massachusetts, and currently serves on the advisory boards of Henry Ford College in Dearborn and Bridging Communities in Detroit. He also serves on the boards of The Henry Ford Museum, Operation Hope, and Neighborhood Villages, a nonprofit group he helped start that aims to partner with community-based organizations to increase the accessibility of early child care for all families.
“We are thrilled to welcome Henry Ford III to the Ford Foundation Board of Trustees,” says Darren Walker, president of the foundation. “In recent years we’ve made a series of major investments to help southeastern Michigan, building on years of commitment to the region in which we were founded. Henry has been an advocate for these efforts, and I am delighted he will bring his dedication to social justice to his board service. Although we were established to be an independent institution, our recent efforts in southeastern Michigan have marked a reconnection with the Ford family, coming full circle with Henry’s election to our board.”
The Ford Foundation has made a sustained commitment to its heritage, recognizing Detroit and its metropolitan area as an essential venue for tackling inequality in all its forms. That process began with the Grand Bargain in 2013, to which the foundation contributed $125 million as part of a group of funders investing nearly $400 million to help the city of Detroit emerge from bankruptcy in an equitable manner that preserved the rights of retired city employees and protected the collection of the Detroit Institute of the Arts.
Two years later, the foundation’s 16-member board gathered in Detroit for its first meeting in the city in decades, and hosted a series of events there affirming the foundation’s commitment to supporting a bright future for the city. In 2017, the foundation opened an office in Detroit and selected Detroit native Kevin Ryan to manage it. The foundation makes more than $30 million in grants to organizations in and around Detroit each year, including its ongoing $12.5 million annual payment to fulfill the Grand Bargain. That work plays an important part in the foundation’s efforts to address racial injustice and economic inequality, and advance democratic participation, across the U.S.
Ford Foundation has become one of the leading philanthropies in the world, with a $13 billion endowment and more than $600 million in annual grant making. It has made more than $50 billion in grants over the course of its existence (in today’s dollars), seeding such innovations as the Green Revolution, public television, microfinance, the human rights movement, international scholarships for thousands of leaders, and movements to advance civil rights in the U.S., end apartheid in South Africa, and advance rights and opportunity for women and girls worldwide – among many other areas of contribution.
Ford Foundation trustees are elected by its board for terms of six years. Trustees set broad policy relating to grant making, geographic focus, investments, governance and professional standards, and they oversee internal and independent audits. The foundation’s trustees hail from four continents and have extensive experience in the worlds of higher education, business and finance, technology, law, government, and the nonprofit sector.
“We’re so proud of our history and heritage in Michigan, and welcoming Henry to the board really reinforces that,” says Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, chairman of the foundation’s board. “He’s a voice for fairness and equity in his work and pursuits and will make a great addition to an already outstanding group of trustees.”