“Where I am and where I started a number of years ago was to really move beyond success to significance,” Ford, the longest-serving faculty member at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, told guests at the May 2 event in the Jindal School. “For me, significance is having an impact on other people’s lives and then moving out of their way.”
That impact has been felt by both his peers and what Ford calls his academic sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and cousins, many of whom have gone on to careers in academia.
“If I chaired your dissertation, then I’m your academic father,” he said. “If I was on your committee, I’m your academic uncle. If I had to write a letter of reference for you, for your promotion and tenure and that was… my main connection with you, or as a mentor, then I’m your academic cousin.”
One of his “academic daughters,” Dr. Kiran Mirza Ismail, PhD ’06, is now an assistant professor of management at St. John’s University in New York. She wrote a congratulatory note that was added to a video created for the event, offering him congratulations on his “remarkable career” and thanking him for his “immensely valuable mentorship.”
“May you retire,” she wrote, “knowing that your positivity, dedication and mentorship inspired generations of doctoral students and peers. You surely will be missed by the academic community.”
The video included colleagues, students, friends and family members, some of whom were unable to attend the May 2 celebration. About 125 people came in person to the sendoff. Emceed by Arthur Gregg, assistant vice president for Multicultural Affairs and director of the Multicultural Center at UT Dallas, festivities included a farewell tribute from Jindal School Dean Hasan Pirkul and introduction of Ford’s wife, Jackie, who got effusive thanks and a large bouquet from the honoree.
Ford came to UT Dallas in July 1975 as an associate professor of management and administrative sciences. He served in that position until September 1983, when he was promoted to professor of organizations, strategy and international management. His productive academic career is reflected in an extensive curriculum vitae. The CV reflects myriad research interests and achievements, many professional memberships and activities, numerous talks and presentations, and a long list of honors, recognitions, awards and fellowships. Notable accolades have included a Dallas Business Journal 2016 Minority Business Leader Award and one of the inaugural Lifetime Diversity Champion Awards from the UT Dallas Office of Diversity and Community Engagement.
Dr. Orlando Richard, associate professor of organizations, strategy and international management, has turned to Ford for guidance ever since joining the UT Dallas faculty in 2000.
“I always go to him and he’s always there to provide me both career and psychosocial support as well as role modeling,” Richard said. “He’s a great role model for the next generation.”
Dr. Diane McNulty, associate dean of external affairs and corporate development at the Jindal School and clinical professor of governance, worked for Ford as a research assistant when she started graduate school at UT Dallas. She remains grateful, she said, for his continued guidance, mentorship and friendship.
“Forty-two years at a university is just tremendous,” McNulty said in the video. “He’s been a productive researcher and an interested faculty member, and has pursued his goals for diversifying the faculty as well as the student population.”
At his retirement celebration, Ford offered a summary of his career and life, explaining that whenever he was asked what he did for a living, he used to say he was a professor. After he taught a course in foundations of work behavior, he learned a different way of framing his answer.
“What I do,” he said, “is select a variety of tasks and projects that allow me to use my evolving skills, abilities and talents and interests to create for myself a lifetime of adventure and contribution.”
Ford’s first post-retirement adventure will consist of a trip to Australia, where he will be chairing the biennial international meeting of the Eastern Academy of Management, an organization that fosters collaboration between U.S. management scholars and their overseas counterparts. The EAM-I 2017 Conference XVII, “Managing in a Global Economy,” will be held at Bond University in Queensland.
— Jimmie R.Markham