February 19, 2001
Introducing John Ford
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
Since he first arrived on campus last summer, John Ford has been barraged with questions. First from Emorys search committee charged with sifting through applicants for the Universitys position of Senior Vice President and Dean for Campus Life, vacated by Frances Lucas-Tauchar when she accepted the presidency of Millsaps College.
Next, for two days in early September, Fordby then a finalist for
the positionreturned to campus to field questions from the University
at large. People asked pointedly about his background, his plans for Emory
and his philosophies, among other things.
Ford was offered and accepted the job later that month, and he moved
into his office on the fourth floor of the Dobbs Center on Jan. 3. Since
then, Ford has criss-crossed campus, making appearances at events as varied
as the Mr. and Ms. Emory Pageaant (where he was a judge), a reception
for the University Advisory Council on Teaching, and even the University
Athletic Association swimming championships, taking in the atmosphere
of his new home and discussing not only his vision for the future of campus
life, but also a little about himself.
Im not used to talking about myself or my career very much,
Ford said, and Ive found that interestingresponding
to all the questions about what Ive done and why Ive done
it. That made me reflect and reassess how I could use what Id learned
throughout my career in starting this new job here.
While Ford may find it odd talking about himself, members of the Emory
have no problem talking about him, and what he will mean to the University
in the years ahead.
John Ford has quickly and adroitly taken stock of the Emory situation
as he has seen it, and, in his first few weeks, has proven himself to
be the leader the search committee told [Provost] Rebecca Chopp and me
he would be, said President Bill Chace.
I look forward to working with him over the years because I find
in him a wonderful combination of diplomat, gentleman and lover of the
academy, he added.
He is thoughtful in the way he approaches people, said Karen
Salisbury, assistant dean and director of student activities. He
isnt the type of person who comes in and says, This is the
way it is. He asks people their opinions. A lot of us are really
excited about this style of leadership.
I believe in getting input from all our staff and making sure we
share a common vision about where the division should be going,
Ford said. Its a collaborative style.
He stands firm on his own beliefs, but he doesnt belittle
the views of other people, said Bridget Riordan, assistant to the
vice president of Campus Life.
The most pleasant thing has been the warm welcome Ive received,
Ford said. Everybodys very friendly, and its easy to
get to know people. There is a lot of interest at Emory in enhancing the
One of Fords first tasks in enhancing that social climate is tackling
the perceived lack of school spirit on campusemphasis on the word
To an outsider whos visited a lot of college campuses, one
can be a little more optimistic about the reality of [school spirit at
Emory], Ford said. I see, in spite of the complaint about
being spirit challenged, a lot of activities going on where
there are very high-spirited people. Could there be more people at these
public and social events? Sure. But I dont think Emory is as spirit
challenged as some of the critics would like to believe.
One way his office will address spirit, Ford said, is to look at many
of the Universitys ceremonial occasions and identify ways to enhance
other traditions to promote more University identity.
Prior to taking over as Campus Life vice president, Ford was Robert W.
and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students and Professor at Cornell University
in Ithaca, N.Y., which is located about an hour south of Syracuse, in
the center of the state.
Fords journey south to his new position brought out the English
professor in President Chace. [Dr. Ford] is daily traversing the
campus and getting to know it well. Just keep in mind that Odysseus sailed
for years to return to Ithaca. We are glad that John Ford has sailed from
Ithaca to us.
Ford began his career on the Cornell faculty in 1974, and was appointed
as dean of students in 1992, the universitys first faculty member
to earn such an appointment. A native of Chicago, Ford earned his bachelors
degree in philosophy and psychology from Boston University and subsequently
earned three graduate degrees including a Ph.D. in social work and sociology
from the University of Michigan.
Now Ford takes over a division that members more than 800 employees and
encompasses a huge range of responsibilities from student activities to
LGB life to athletics to the computer store.
We see ourselves as being a communications network between the
students and the administration, Ford said.
And the word among division employees is relentlessly positive. Great,
wonderful and cool, are just three of the unscripted
comments offered by Campus Life people about the first two months of the
For instance, in recognition of the birthday of one Campus Life employee,
Ford serenaded her with an impromptu chorus of Happy Birthday,
while they shared an elevatoratypical upper management behavior
to be sure.
I think this is supposed to be, and is, a fun job, Ford said.
There are problems we are expected to solve, and some of our success
will be judged in how we do that.
Our staff members are just super people, and obviously the students bring a lot of energy and optimism and enthusiasm to much of what goes on here. Thats a winning combination.