1935 – 1997
Respected social worker, educator, minister and university administrator
In a career that spanned nearly three decades, Richard D. Ford had an impact on the lives, directions and careers of thousands of ethnic minority and disadvantaged students in the San Joaquin Valley during the 70’s, 80’s and the 90’s. He always treated everyone with whom he interacted in a positive and respectful manner and he was a man of courage, creativity, and commitment. He served as a mentor and teacher for emerging educational, community and regional leaders and championed extensive services to disadvantaged and ethnic minority populations.
Ford earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1959 at Miles College in Birmingham, Alabama and a master’s in social work at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1969. He also held a Bachelor of Divinity from Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminar in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In 1972, Ford joined the staff of the California State University, Fresno as the Dean of the School of Social Work, later renamed the School of Health and Social Work. He was the first African American academic dean in the university’s history. He conducted the first study of graduation and retention rate for student athletes at the university and he was an active member of the Black Faculty and Staff Association.
Ford provided much needed leadership to a young, struggling, social work education program in the central San Joaquin Valley region. During his tenure, the school offered the only BSW and MSW programs between the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. Under his leadership, the programs grew and prospered, even during times of adversity and budget cuts. He recruited and maintained the most diverse faculty at Fresno State with the most diverse student body on campus. During his tenure, the social work program also led the university in securing external resources.
Ford formed partnerships with all of the departments of social services in the region, which still exists today. This continuing university/community partnership has served as a model for other partnerships that the university has initiated since then. The university has now formally embraced this engaged university approach and model.
Through his grant and contract activities, Ford brought over two million dollars to the university enabling him to increase the number of ethnic minority students in health and social work. He was honored with the Rosa Parks Community Leadership Award, James H. Rodgers Lifetime Achievement Award, CSUF Black Gospel Choir Award, Social Worker of the Year Award, Dean Emeritus, Honorary Member of the Golden Key National Honor Society, and Who’s Who Among Black Americans.