A Developer Who Made a Difference

March/April 1999

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A Developer Who Made a Difference

Photo: Rod Searcey

In the hands of Tom Ford, money and power were beneficent instruments. Over four decades, the Silicon Valley property magnate built a remarkable legacy of good works -- from educational projects in East Palo Alto to Peninsula-wide environmental preservation to endowed professorships, student fellowships and major facilities at Stanford. Ford died of a heart attack at his Portola Valley home on November 30. The broad reach of his philanthropy was evident in the throng of 1,500 who attended his service at Memorial Church in December.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Ford graduated from Yale, served as a Navy lieutenant in World War II and earned his law degree at the University of Michigan. He joined Stanford in 1955 as a legal counsel in the business office, then became director of land development. Although Ford left the University in 1964 and started the Ford Land Company two years later, his ties to Stanford only strengthened -- and broadened -- over the years.

He served on the Board of Trustees from 1980 to 1990; as a trustee of the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital; on the Stanford Athletic Board; and on the advisory boards of the Center for Economic Policy Research and the Haas Center for Public Service. He was a major contributor to the Children’s Hospital building fund and the principal donor to the Ford Center for Sports and Recreation. Ford endowed two professorships in the School of Engineering and one at the Law School, and he provided major funding for three undergraduate dormitories -- Kimball, Lantana and Castaño -- in 1989.

As the developer of 3000 Sand Hill Road and other properties tenanted by Silicon Valley’s fabulously flush venture capitalists, Ford’s fortunes grew. So did his public contributions, in keeping with his lifelong credo of giving back to the community. He co-founded the Peninsula Open Space Trust, served on the Portola Valley Planning Commission and started the Lincoln Club to support moderate Republican candidates.He funded a program offering a $1,000 scholarship to every student in East Palo Alto’s Ravenswood district who makes it to college. Ford even gave the Peninsula Community Foundation a share in the limited partnership that runs 3000 Sand Hill Road. “He was a role model for the world of philanthropy,” says John Hennessy, dean of engineering.

Ford is survived by his wife, Susan; four sons, Richard, Christopher, ’83, David, ’85, and Thomas Jr.; his daughter, Anne Latcham-Ford; and five grandchildren.

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