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December Commencement Convocation

December Graduation

Speaker

Gerald J. Ford

Gerald J. Ford

Gerald J. Ford, one of the nation’s most innovative and successful business leaders, will deliver the SMU December Commencement Convocation address at 10 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 20, at Moody Coliseum to more than 600 graduating SMU students.

“Gerald J. Ford is an entrepreneur who built his success from the ground up,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “He exemplifies the drive, spirit and expertise that today’s graduates must possess to shape their own futures. It is a valued tradition at December Commencement for our graduates to hear from distinguished members of the Dallas community and our Board of Trustees. Mr. Ford will have valuable lessons to pass on to our graduates.”

Ford is the chairman of the board and the principal shareholder of both the Diamond A Ford Corporation and Hilltop Holdings Inc., a Texas-based diversified financial holding company. He also is the co-managing member and principal investor in Ford Financial Fund II LP, a private equity firm.

Ford also is an owner of thoroughbred horse breeding and racing operations in Kentucky and California, and a working ranch in New Mexico. He is the former chairman of the board, CEO, and a principal shareholder of Golden State Bancorp Inc., and its wholly owned subsidiary, California Federal Bank FSB, a Federal Savings Bank that merged with Citigroup in 2002.

In October 2013, Ford and his wife, Kelli O. Ford, and The Gerald J. Ford Family Foundation committed $15 million as the lead gift to construct an SMU research center. The center bolsters a major SMU initiative to expand advanced computing and interdisciplinary research throughout the University. The new state-of-the-art building will support research facilitated by SMU’s high-performance computing capabilities, among other projects.

Previously, Ford has provided gifts for Gerald J. Ford Stadium, the Circle of Champions Centennial Challenge, and the Gerald J. Ford Research Fellows Program, which annually honors outstanding faculty members with funding to support their research and creative endeavors. By providing the lead gift for the Mustangs’ football stadium in 1997, Ford revitalized the campus experience for athletes, other students and supporters. He also supports student scholarships. Ford is a member of the SMU Board of Trustees and former Board chair, a member of the Executive Board of Dedman School of Law, a member of the Campaign Leadership Council and currently is the convening co-chair of SMU’s Second Century Campaign.

Ford has strong ties to SMU dating from his student days. He earned a B.A. degree in economics from Dedman College in 1966 and a J.D. degree from what is now the Dedman School of Law in 1969. He was honored with SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995 and the Mustang Award in 1997 recognizing significant philanthropic contributions to the University. He was honored with the Dedman School of Law’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2002.

He is a past member of the executive boards of Cox School of Business and Dedman College and of the Board of Directors of John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

An active community leader, Ford is an honorary trustee of Southwestern Medical Foundation, a former director of the Children’s Medical Foundation and Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dallas and former member of the Dallas Citizens Council. Beyond Dallas, he serves on the board of overseers of Cornell University’s Weill Medical College.