Ford School 100: centennial stories

December 16, 2013

The launch of the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) in 1946 was a turning point for the school now known as the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Originally established in 1914 to prepare graduates for careers in municipal government, the IPA was designed to prepare graduates for careers at the state level, and to serve the rising demand for well-trained public administrators—a demand brought on by the close of WWII and the growth of American cities.

Ben Williams (MPA '48), who recently returned to the Ford School for a visit, was among the first graduates of the Institute of Public Administration. During the war, Williams had been stationed in Canada, where he was charged with helping send thousands of P-39s and P-63s, so-called tank destroyers, to the Soviet-German front. "They were obsolete as far as our service was concerned," he recalled. "This was a collection of all our outdated airplanes; we sent them to Russia, and they were just the tool they needed to get the German tanks."

When the war ended, Williams returned to Michigan, and enrolled in the University of Michigan's newly-constituted Institute of Public Administration. And after graduation, he took a job as a budget examiner for the state transportation department.

Back then, much like today, finances were tight, so all budget requests were thoroughly scrutinized. Williams would help transportation department staff members consider their requests from all angles, developing answers to the critical questions they'd be asked by the legislature: "What's it going to cost? Is it worth it? And what's the public going to gain from what you're proposing?" Throughout his career, he helped to grow and maintain the state's highways, airways, and waterways.

In 2014, the Ford School will celebrate all of the alumni who—like Ben Williams—have designed, informed, and implemented well-crafted public policy, improved lives, and made our world a better place.

Share Your Memories

Were you a student in the IPA? An IPPSter? Or among the first Ford School classes? What do you remember about the school, your cohort, the classes, or the times?

Please share your best Ford School memory at You can also send photos to: [email protected]. We'll share your stories throughout the year.

Class Photo: Larry Collins



Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Fall 2013 State & Hill here.