Gift from Ford Family Supports Princeton Athletics

The head of the Ford Motor Company has made a donation to Princeton University that will endow the position of director of athletics at the school and provide funds for student-athlete programs.

William Clay Ford Jr., a member of Princeton’s Class of 1979, and Lisa Vanderzee Ford, of the Class of 1982, have donated an unspecified sum to the university to create the Bill and Lisa Ford Family Directorship of Athletics.

“I am very grateful to Bill and Lisa Ford for their gift, which will help to strengthen our very successful athletic program and allow us to even more fully develop our students’ talents,” Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman said in a news release about the donation. “The Fords’ gift is the capstone in the athletics component of our Aspire fundraising campaign, which has increased our capacity to help our student-athletes to flourish. Princeton is justifiably proud of its student-athletes, who demonstrate that academic excellence and athletic prowess can go hand in hand.”

The gift is part of the school’s current $1.75 billion Aspire fundraising campaign, which includes a commitment to athletics as an important element of the Princeton experience.  Alumni and friends have made donations for a range of varsity and recreational athletic programs as part of the campaign.

Princeton’s athletics program encompasses 38 men’s and women’s varsity intercollegiate sports teams, almost 35 club teams, about 300 intramural teams, coaching staff, and campus athletics and fitness facilities.

The school’s current athletics director, Gary Walters, a member of Princeton’s Class of 1967, will be the first Ford Family Director of Athletics. Walters has led athletics at the University since 1994.

“The Princeton athletics department and I are profoundly honored,” Walters said. “Through this transformative gift, Lisa and Bill have endorsed our goals and values, most especially Princeton’s unique programmatic commitment to education through athletics.”

A key component of the Fords’ gift is the establishment of a discretionary fund that will enable the director of athletics to identify and support initiatives across Princeton’s athletics department, including varsity and recreational programs.

Bill Ford is executive chairman of Ford Motor Company and vice chairman of the Detroit Lions professional football team. He earned an undergraduate degree in history at Princeton and a master’s degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A former Princeton University trustee and longtime supporter of athletics at Princeton, Ford currently serves as a member of the Princeton Varsity Club board of directors and has served as a volunteer for Princeton’s yearly fundraising campaign. Lisa Ford was an economics major while at Princeton and also has served as a fundraising volunteer.

“Lisa and I believe deeply that the lessons our student-athletes learn in perseverance, teamwork and leadership will serve them well throughout their lives,” Bill Ford said. “We are delighted to have a hand in ensuring that our Department of Athletics has the resources necessary to provide the valuable education that takes place whenever our athletes gather to practice and compete.”