Yale University

Coach Ford at Yale, photo courtesy of the Yale Office of Public Affairs and Communications


Reflecting upon his first impression of Yale, Jerry Ford was quite taken with the school in New Haven. “The Yale campus, an attractive place today, was even more beautiful then. The tall Gothic towers were inspiring, the long, sweeping lawns refreshing and clean. Everywhere I went, I discerned an atmosphere of scholarship, dignity, and tradition.” His job coaching the football team and boxing team was a full-time affair, leaving him no time to pursue dreams of a law degree, but he was soon able to pay off much of his college debt.


Ford enjoyed his coaching position, and it was job he did well. “I learned many things,” he recalled, “that you had to fit in with the direction and style of your boss. You carried out your duties with the individual players; you had to show them how to play and inspire them personally to play up to the limit of their capability. And you had to be a good representative of Yale University as you traveled around to go to alumni meetings and tried to recruit good players.”


Jerry continued to coach through the spring of 1937, and that summer he enrolled in a few law classes in Ann Arbor to test his ambition. He had been denied entry to Yale law school the following fall, and wanted to prove he was capable of completing the work. He received B’s in the two courses he took, and was allowed entry at the law school in New Haven on a part-time basis. He did this while maintaining his coaching duties, never mentioning to his superiors that he was also taking classes. Jerry managed the work load, and eventually received his degree in the spring of 1941. He returned to his hometown of Grand Rapids to practice law, set on the course that would lead him to the presidency.