Henry Ford initially rejected a proposal from Cork to confer him with an honorary degree, but there were no such problems when his great-grandson was the proud recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from UCC during his recent visit.
In 1926, Cork National University, now UCC, wrote to Henry to inform him it wanted to bestow him with an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. Unsure as to what this entailed, Henry’s spokesman rejected the offer on the grounds that the motor boss had “no legal talent”, before the concept was explained and he eventually accepted the title.
Last month, William Clay Ford Jr followed in his ancestor’s footsteps by receiving an honorary Doctorate of Economic Science from UCC and the National University of Ireland.
On his visit to UCC, the Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company announced a major link-up between Ford and the university.
Ford is sponsoring a new programme for high achievers at UCC, called the Ford Centenary Quercus Scholarship, which aims to support and promote excellence for prospective undergraduate students and would-be entrepreneurs.
It will run for five years, beginning with the 2017-18 academic year, and help about 50 students to realise their potential and fully develop their talents through educational and practical support.
UCC’s Quercus Talented Students’ programme, has been running since 2015 and targets particular students who show outstanding promise in the areas of active citizenship and innovation/entrepreneurship, seeking to nurture the talent of each student through support, challenge and mentoring.
Mr Clay Ford Jr said the visit to Ireland was not just about remembering the past, but about investing in the future.
“With both deep personal and business connections to Ireland, I am delighted to celebrate not only 100 years of Ford in Ireland, but also to support the advancement of talented students at UCC with this new scholarship programme.
“While we have a lot to celebrate about our past, I’m especially excited that this scholarship provides the opportunity for us to support a new generation of innovators and leaders that can help shape the future for the next 100 years,” he said.
Mr Clay Ford Jr said he was very “excited” by the prospect of helping to nurture Irish talent for the future. “This whole trip has been a wonderful trip down memory lane and I love it, but I didn’t want to leave this celebration looking back. It was important to me to look forward. This is our future. You guys (students) are the future and we want to invest in that future.”
President of UCC, Patrick O’Shea, said the scholarship would help nurture the outstanding talent in the university that goes through the Quercus programme.
“We are delighted Ford has chosen to mark and celebrate its centenary in Ireland by supporting outstanding talent at our university. UCC, too, has played an integral part in the life of Cork, being founded 172 years ago, in 1845, at the start of the famine.
“Nurturing talent is what we are about, as well as preparing our students for active citizenship in the social, economic, cultural and political spheres when they graduate from University College Cork.”
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