New ‘Fordies’ sign in to Ford Institute at Albion College

Traditions can begin with something as simple as a signature.

February 1, 2023

From left to right: Maria Heyboer, ’26, Alia Olan, ’23, Christopher Kerber, ’23, Wyatt Falardeau, ’26, Eddie Visco, Donna Calvaruso, Joe Calvaruso, ’78, Carrie Booth Walling, Andrew Sowa, ’23, Beata Karwaczka, ’26, Stanley Chidozirim, ’26, Valentine Ansumana, ’26, Natasha Mwila, ’23

By Ward Mullens

That was certainly the case when President Gerald R. Ford signed his name at Albion College, Oct. 3, 1977 and established the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership and Public Policy in Service.

President Ford’s legacy in helping to develop community minded leaders has continued for the past 45 years and has seen hundreds of “Fordies” go on to carry out that mission.

The newest class of “Fordies” started a new tradition at the institute recently (Jan. 27) as they signed their names as new members of the Ford Institute and took up the mantle that Ford carried.

The day-long celebration at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation in Grand Rapids featured a tour of the Ford Presidential Museum, an introduction to the new Ford Leadership Forum that connects students from around the state, an address by Albion College Interim President and former Ford Presidential Foundation Executive Director Joe Calvaruso and lunch. Approximately 10 new “Fordies” signed, according to Dr. Carrie Walling, faculty director of Albion’s Ford Institute.

“These are students who are interested in making an impact, not just in their communities, but in the world,” said Albion College Interim President Joe Calvaruso. “We are honored to have such a strong relationship with the Ford Foundation and the Ford family to provide these kinds of opportunities to help them develop as leaders.”

“We want our new cohort of Ford students to feel a strong sense of connection with the “Fordies” who have come before them and with the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation,” said Walling. “We wanted them to feel the connection to President Ford and the Ford Presidential Foundation. They will sit at President Ford’s personal desk in his personal office at the Ford Foundation and they will sign their name into membership.”

Eddie Visco, ’04, the current executive director and a graduate of the Ford Institute, knows what it means to be a Fordie.

“The Ford Institute is what brought me to Albion (twice!),” said Visco, who returned to his alma mater in 2011 and became the executive director in 2021. “As an undergraduate student, I enjoyed building relationships with faculty and staff and my peers, hearing from impressive speakers, interning in our nation’s capital, and learning about the Albion community through volunteer work. All of these experiences provided a valuable insight to the policy process and what public service looks like. As a staff member of the Ford Institute, it is inspiring to see the next generation of leaders passionate about making a positive difference and I consider myself lucky to be a part of their development.”

Chris Kerber, a current “Fordie” and Prentiss M. Brown Honors College member, agreed.

“I’ll never forget freshman year exploring the town with our class. We met with community leaders and small business owners to learn about their challenges and how we as students can get involved in our home-away-from-home,” Kerber said. “But we weren’t just identifying problems or areas of improvements, we were also creating solutions as well, several of which have been implemented around the city. An immediate lesson emerged from this, that no matter how big or how small an action, whether it be volunteering or leading a country, we can all make a difference.”

“The Ford Institute embraces Albion’s Liberal Arts philosophy. Students are exposed to topics like economics, statistics, philosophy, ethics and more — in order to create well-rounded leaders who are ready to make a stand. I personally have found myself constantly applying this broad base of knowledge in the real world throughout internships in the public and private sector,” said Kerber.

The Gerald Ford Institute for Public Service exists to enhance student awareness, understanding and appreciation of life’s public dimensions. It strives to develop leaders and engaged citizens who understand the competing and conflicting interests of our world and strengthen their ability to advocate for the greater good.