First daughter briefly attended KU

Gerald Ford’s youngest child, Susan Ford, has Kansas ties.

After high school, the president’s daughter interned at the Topeka Capital-Journal, said Rich Clarkson, a Lawrence native and head of the multimedia company Rich Clarkson and Associates LLC. Clarkson used to run the Capital-Journal’s photography department.

Pulitzer Prize winning photographer David Hume Kennerly, who was White House photographer during the Ford administration, helped make the connection for the young photojournalist, Clarkson said.

Clarkson recalled her covering a Kansas City Chiefs game and creating a picture story of a Salina couple who’d transformed a railroad station into a home.

Soon, Clarkson said, the president urged his daughter to go to college.

“He had Michigan in mind,” Clarkson recalled. “She had staying in Kansas in mind.”

Clarkson suggested Kansas University. Ford enrolled at KU for the spring semester of 1977, studying photojournalism.

Her college experience was less than ordinary.

“She had Secret Service protection,” KU journalism professor Richard Musser said. “I think they accompanied her to classes.”

But Ford didn’t stay long.

“I don’t think she was a very good student,” said Bill Tuttle, KU professor of American studies. “She wasn’t around very much. In just a few months, she was gone somewhere else.”

Clarkson said Ford loved the campus and KU. But “she wasn’t that enamored with going to school. … She kept finding other things to do.”