January 2020 Volume 16

Over, and, Not-Out: A Chat with Ray Ford

Dr. Glen Laman
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“I just want you to know Glen,” said the voice on the other end of the line, “that you did not waste your time.” The voice, was that of Ray Ford.

I had truly forgotten that over two years ago, Ray had asked me to write a letter or recommendation for him to be accepted into the Program & Project Management graduate degree program at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He was. And he was calling to advise, that he had indeed graduated.

 My friendship with Ray goes back quite a few years, as over those years, he had contributed quite a few articles to our http://www.kctimes.org. “And what makes you want to put yourself through this torture?” I remember asking him when he approached me to write the letter for him. “For one, I want to know what they are now talking about,” he told me, alluding to the fact, that the last time he was in-school, was way back in December 1990 when he received the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree in Marketing, from Michigan State University. “But more importantly,” Ray said, “I want to inspire people.”

“A number of years ago, diagnosed with depression, I was laid-up for close to two years. And while in my fishbowl, I told myself that if I ever recovered, I’d put my mind to good use.”

“This is amazing!” Mr. Tim Reid - Ray’s Lansing-based attorney – marveled recently.

And what did you discover on this recent journey? “That the more things change, is the more they stay the same,” Ray noted. “Back in the 70s when I was in engineering school, there was only at-most a handful of blacks in my classes. Fifteen years later when I completed my MBA, things in that regard, didn’t change much. And now twenty-nine years later, things are much the same.” “And the second thing I re-learnt,” Ray continued, “is that I rather work by myself. God I still hate those group-projects,” he laments.

But in terms of content, what’s new? “Well of course, the challenges of mitigating the effects of climate change, have now taken center-stage, and spawn almost every area of study,” Ray observes. “Back in engineering school, for a class in Energy Conversion, I delved into geothermal energy. And in the capstone class for this program, I ventured into `Dynamic Charging for Electric Vehicles’. Besides, for my other elective classes three topics I looked into, were `Energy Mixes for Developing Countries’, `Doing Business in Shanghai’ and, `Commercial Contracts’. And so, there are lots of exciting things going on out there.”

“Then of course,” Ray reminds, “there’s the whole business of truth and power. What is truth these days, and how power can be misused, are two of the topics that have America gripped in a vise. And so, for another elective class, I took International Communications, and examined `Complexities of the Caribbean Cricket Media’.”

And what now? “A little of this and a little of that, I hope. Graduate school is not cheap, and I would not refuse, opportunities to recoup. Right now, I’m beginning to write a book on my journey; would not mind doing some motivational speaking; and would not mind consulting on, or managing, some technical projects.” “And then there’s a biggie.”

And what is that? “I was watching India maul the West Indies at Sabina Park this past August/September, and it was then and there I said to myself, `enough’. I’m now strategizing a path to one-day head Cricket West Indies.” “I’ve been watching West Indies Test cricket for the last fifty-seven (57) years. And the last twenty-four (24) of those - since Australia took the Frank Worrell Trophy at Sabina Park - have been particularly distressing,” says Ray. “Everybody and their brother, have had their turn in the barrel. And, to no avail. So, why not give me mine?”

On December 14th, last, Ray - a 1970 Fortis graduate, at 68 years old, was the oldest of the 379 Bachelor’s and Master’s degree graduates at the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Fall 2019 Commencement.

 Knowing Ray Ford as I do, if I were a betting-man, I would not bet against either him, or, against his ambition.

Here is a link to MSU College of Engineering post about Ray’s graduation:

https://www.egr.msu.edu/notables/class-notes/raymond-ford

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