Expanded building name change made official during ceremony
Gertrude C. Ford valued anything and everything that helped education and young people, said Stephen Sims, president of the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation. That is why it feels right to name The Gertrude C. Ford Student Union at the University of Mississippi in her honor.
The naming became official Friday, August 26 during a brief ceremony held inside the Student Union.
“This building fosters a sense of community by serving so many people and purposes,” Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “That’s one of the reasons why it is fitting to name this building in honor of the late philanthropist Gertrude C. Ford and pay tribute to her transformative passion, far-reaching influence and lasting impact on this university.”
The university began renovations and expansion in 2015 and the new Student Union opened in 2019. The project added more than 173,000 square feet, including an 8,000-square-foot ballroom.
Larger lobbies and dining spaces, as well as increased conference meeting spaces, were needed to better serve the growing student population with a more modern and engaging hub of student life.
“I’m so proud that The Gertrude C. Ford Ole Miss Student Union is for all students – and prospective students,” said Bradley Baker, Student Union director. “Our continued and cherished relationship with the Ford Foundation has impacted countless aspects of the Ole Miss campus, but one of the biggest impacts is on the commitment to our students.
“This is especially evident with The Gertrude C. Ford Ole Miss Student Union and the M-Power Extended Orientation Program which are both integral to our students’ continued success and how they will build their legacies at our university.
Sims said the Ford Foundation welcomed partnering with the university for the expansion.
“The Student Union is the center of campus, so I think this naming is fantastic,” Sims said. “Students are in it all the time, and the ballroom is impressive. It’s so much more than anything we’ve ever had before.”
The Ford Foundation initiated its longtime support of the university when it contributed $25 million for the 88,000-square-foot Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, opened in 2002.
The foundation’s support of other university initiatives includes the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom in The Inn at Ole Miss, the Daniel W. Jones, M.D. Chair for Faculty Support on the Oxford campus, the Suzan Thames Chair of Pediatrics on the Medical Center campus and essential land for Gertrude C. Ford Boulevard, providing the first new north-south thoroughfare on campus for the ever-growing Oxford-University community.
In 1991, she established the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation in Jackson. It was not until after her death, in 1998, that the Ford Foundation directors awarded Ole Miss a multimillion-dollar gift to design and build the performing arts center.
Throughout her life, Mrs. Ford was an ardent supporter of the arts. She played flute, violin, and piano, and spoke French, Latin, and Spanish. She also enjoyed the study of literature, particularly Shakespeare.
By Edwin Smith