DETROIT -- To signal its ongoing commitment to Detroit and Michigan, the New York-based Ford Foundation Board of Trustees has named a member of the Ford family to its board for the first time in 43 years.
Henry Ford III, 38, manager of corporate strategy at Ford Motor Co., has been elected to a six-year term on the foundation's board. He is the son of Edsel Ford II, a longtime member of Ford Motor Co.'s board of directors.
Ford III is the great-grandson of Edsel Ford, who created the Ford Foundation in 1936. The younger Ford is the first family member to sit on the foundation's board since his grandfather, Henry Ford II, resigned in 1976 after 33 years of service as president, chairman and trustee.
Henry Ford II created the modern Ford Foundation, guiding it on a deliberate process of becoming independent. Under his leadership, it shifted to an international mission, expanded its board beyond the Ford family and moved to New York City in 1953.
In 2006, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox launched an investigation of the foundation, alleging it had ignored the Ford family's philanthropic wishes by reducing support for Michigan charities.
The probe came amid sizable commitments made by the foundation in Detroit. Between 2005 and 2007, the Ford Foundation committed $2 million to the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy's RiverWalk project, $5 million to the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan for neighborhood development along the city's east riverfront and $8 million in grants and low-cost loans to ShoreBank Enterprise Detroit to spur new economic development in Detroit.
In the spring of 2007, it committed $25 million to the first round of funding to create the New Economy Initative, a $100 million economic development initiative led by foundations.
In 2014, under the direction of current President Darren Walker, the foundation stepped up its investments in southeastern Michigan with a $125 million commitment to the "Grand Bargain" that shored up Detroit pension funds, helping the city to emerge from bankruptcy and protecting the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Including the $12.5 million annual payment it makes to fulfill that pledge, it makes more than $30 million in grants in metro Detroit each year.
"Henry has been an advocate for these efforts, and I am delighted he will bring his dedication to social justice to his board service," Walker said in a release.
"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."
Re-engagement in Detroit
Ford's appointment to the foundation's board builds on other moves the foundation has made to re-engage with Detroit in recent years.
In 2015, it held its first meeting in Detroit since 1948, and in 2017 it opened an office in Detroit and named Detroit native Kevin Ryan to manage it as it began focusing on reforming the school system, investing in affordable housing and equitable development and support of neighborhood-based organizations.
According to the statement, Ford III joined Ford Motor Co. in 2006 and is a member of the corporate strategy team. He served a stint in labor relations as part of the UAW negotiating team. He has also held posts in purchasing as a vehicle programs analyst and in marketing and sales, working in global product marketing. He has been a Lincoln marketing lead for the western U.S. and also has been a global marketing manager for Ford Performance.
Prior to joining the company, Ford III taught middle school and high school math and history after a role with Boston-based Carney, Sandoe and Associates, recruiting new teachers and helping to place them in schools across the country.
He currently serves on the advisory boards of Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Mich., and Bridging Communities in Detroit, The Henry Ford, Operation Hope and Neighborhood Villages, a nonprofit group he helped start to work with community-based organizations to increase the accessibility of early child care for all families.
Ford III said in a statement that he's eager and honored to help shepherd the foundation his family created more than 80 years ago.
"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," he said.