Even the most serious architect has a lighter side, as evidenced with artwork created by Jerry Ford ’54 *59 for Reunions 2022. Ford included a whimsical tiger ready to enter FitzRandolph Gate and welcome Tigers — the human kind — back for a long-anticipated in-person celebration.
No surprise that Ford, a noted preservationist, would have Nassau Hall beckoning in the distance, either. When asked to create a design for this year’s Schedule of Events cover, Ford said he naturally started by thinking of campus buildings and settled on the University’s most iconic one.
He put his sketching skills to work, first in black and white and then, from his collection of 100 felt-tip markers, brushed on highlights for a watercolor effect.
“What I am is a good craftsman,” said Ford, whose drafting and sketching skills led him to a career in architecture. “That lends itself very well to the idea of architecture where I can use my sketching skill to help me understand what I’m designing and help me explain to my clients what I’m doing.”
His long career has spanned projects from residential homes to the New Jersey Statehouse as well as keeping campus facilities updated through commissions at 87 Prospect, Peyton Hall and McCosh 50. With Peyton Hall, the home of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences designed by World Trade Center architect Minoru Yamasaki, Ford’s firm faced a challenge because “Yamasaki built it like a fortress.” Among the changes: an unused observation dome was adapted into a state-of-the-art meeting room.
That preservationist’s focus was the same sensibility in updating McCosh 50 in 1995, where Ford’s firm tackled lighting and newer electrical needs. Ford laughs at memories of his own days in the beloved lecture hall that included activities that would not be sanctioned today: “I remember as an undergraduate being in there smoking cigarettes.”
If he has a favorite Princeton architectural gem, it’s Blair Hall. First, because he admires the relationship between Blair and buildings with their quadrangles that flank it on upper campus. Second, for the happy Reunions memories of performing under the arch with the Nassoons.
The Nassoons were an essential part of Ford’s Princeton experience. He fondly recalls traveling to women’s colleges to perform in the days before coeducation, when payment covered travel expenses and little else. As a group manager, he helped organize trips to Bermuda and Puerto Rico. He remains in touch, participating in Nassoon alumni gatherings.
He also has stayed active with his eating club, Colonial. A mural-size cartoon sketch of “Dancing through the Ages” is taped to his garage wall; a cherry wood relief of the design graces a space in Colonial now.
Perhaps his most enduring sketch is the Class of 1954 tiger that has been part of his class’s identity since its fifth reunion. The feline turns its head to look back and remember happy days at Old Nassau. It’s a fitting companion to the one that will welcome P-rade marchers back to campus for the first in-person Reunions since 2019.