Fraternity Life

Ford's Delta Kappa Epsilon certificate of membership


Delta Kappa Epsilon would never challenge any of the other fifty-five University of Michigan fraternities for a scholastic trophy.  Of the fifty-two that had been on campus longer than ten years, DKE ranked dead last for academic achievement when Jerry Ford pledged in March 1932.  One frat brother later admitted Ford was added to the house in hopes he might raise the fraternity’s grade point average.


DKE was a social house with a reputation for partying.  “It was a well deserved reputation,” Ford said. "Because I divided my time between studies, sports, and part-time jobs, I seldom had time for parties and I guess I was naive about alcohol." It was here that Jerry mixed for the first time with people of wealth, yet Ford struggled to finance his expenses. The DKE manager gave him a job washing dishes to help pay his board when Ford moved in at the start of his sophomore year.


At the frat house on 1912 Geddes, Ford roomed with Eddy Landwehr of Holland, Michigan; Chuck Greening from Monroe;  Jack Beckwith, who would be the best man at Ford’s wedding and godfather to Ford’s first son; and David Conklin, whose Battle Creek football team lost to Ford’s South squad.  Here he also befriended Phil Buchan, with whom Ford later would practice law, and John R. "Jack" Stiles, who would be his first campaign manager.


1935 Michiganensian photograph of the DKE fraternity. Ford is second from right in the front row.

Ford’s three years with DKE did not heal the fraternity’s reputation, but it helped make Ford’s.  When fraternity brothers could not balance the house’s books, they turned the red ledger over to Ford who put them in the black.  The Michiganensian, Michigan’s yearbook, placed the senior from Grand Rapids in its Hall of Fame, in part “because he put the D.K.E. house back on a paying basis.”