President and CEO of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores and Fair Lane, home of Clara and Henry Ford in Dearborn, Kathleen Mullins, has announced plans to retire, effective May 31. In coming weeks, the Board of Trustees plans to name an interim CEO and will conduct a national search for a permanent replacement.
The Ford House has continued to evolve and achieve Eleanor Ford’s vision of preserving the estate for future generations to enjoy and has included new public events such as Detroit Symphony Orchestra concerts, under Mullins’ 10-year tenure. Also during Mullins’ tenure, Fair Lane was transferred from the University of Michigan to a new 501c3.
“My grandparents and great grandparents wanted people to enjoy their homes, and Kathleen has furthered that vision through detailed historic restoration efforts and enhanced programming,” says Edsel B. Ford II, chairman of both boards of trustees.
Mullins will start her retirement alongside her husband Jim, who retired from his dean position at Purdue University in December 2017. They will retire to their home in Williamsburg, Va.
“It has been such an honor to work with the Ford family and lead a talented team for the past 10 years as we further engage the public with these national landmark estates,” says Mullins. “My recent battle with cancer has taught me to appreciate every day that I am given, and this has weighed heavily into my decision. May 31st marks two years of being cancer free. I feel the timing is right for me to teach an occasional class in my doctoral field of American studies, study subject areas I haven’t had the time to explore, take cooking classes so I can do more than push a microwave button, and spend much more time with my family. It is time to put down my cell phone, to walk away from my computer, and treasure this phase of my life.”
The Ford House has welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors since 1978 through interpretive tours, family activities, lectures, exhibits and gardens, and grounds events. In 2017 it was named as a National Historic Landmark.
From 1915 to 1950, Clara and Henry Ford called Dearborn, Michigan, home, staying in their beloved residence known as Fair Lane. Upon Clara’s death, Fair Lane was given to Ford Motor Co., and in 1957, Ford donated the estate and the farmlands to the University of Michigan for construction of the Dearborn campus. In 1966, it was among the first in the nation to receive the prestigious designation as a National Historic Landmark from the National Register of Historic Places. In June 2013, ownership of the estate transferred from the university to the Henry Ford Estate, Inc., a new 501c3 corporation that will now restore, reimagine, and reopen the estate.