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Betty Ford Passes Torch To Daughter

June 18th, 2010 – Posted by Betty Ford Center in Recovery News
Tags: Betty Ford Betty Ford Center Susan Ford Bales


By Ferdie De Vega
The Desert Sun
January 7, 2005

RANCHO MIRAGE – Former first lady Betty Ford will hand over the reins of the Betty Ford Center to daughter Susan Ford Bales, but will remain on the board of directors of the world-renowned substance abuse treatment hospital.

In addition, Ford will retain the title “life chairman,” center officials said on Thursday.

The center, which has become the most prominent substance abuse treatment center in the world and the valley’s best-known medical facility, was founded in 1982.

Ford moved to Rancho Mirage after her husband, former President Gerald Ford, left the White House in 1976. They built a home in Thunderbird Country Club and have been active in the community.

Bales, 47, who’s spent much of her life in the public spotlight, was elected to chair the board last May. She has spoken around the country about the years she lived in the White House.

Bales also has been recognized as a speaker on substance abuse and as an advocate for breast cancer awareness. She witnessed firsthand her mother’s successful fight against alcohol and addiction to painkillers, as well as her mother’s private battle against breast cancer.

In addition to her work with the center, Bales is a professional photographer who studied with Ansel Adams. She also has written mystery novels.

“We’re very pleased that Mrs. Ford is not going away. She’ll still be involved, and that makes us very happy,” John Schwarzlose, Betty Ford Center chief executive officer, told The Associated Press.

Ford co-founded the center with Leonard Firestone, the tire magnate and former ambassador to Belgium, in 1982 after she conquered her own addictions to prescription drugs and alcohol.

The center, which provides residential treatment to 100 people and outpatient treatment for 50 others, has separate programs for women and men.

“Twenty-two years ago there were virtually no gender-specific programs in the country,” Ford, 86, told The Associated Press. “Leonard and I felt that was important, and we made it one of our guiding principles.”

The Betty Ford Center is a teaching hospital that has treated thousands of people since it opened. The center’s primary program is in Rancho Mirage, and it has an outreach program in Dallas. That program serves children who are living with those suffering drug and alcohol addiction.

Ford’s husband, Gerald R. Ford, became the nation’s 38th president when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974. He lost the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Betty Ford sits inside the serenity room at the Betty Ford Center on the Eisenhower Medical Center campus in Rancho Mirage.


Events related to the establishment of the Betty Ford Center at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.

January 1977: Former President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford move into home next to Leonard Firestone at Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

March 1978: Daughter Susan and three others confront Betty Ford in Rancho Mirage about giving up all medication and liquor. Betty complains of an invasion of privacy.

April 1978: The entire family confronts Betty in an intervention. She enters the Navy Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Service in Long Beach for a one-month program.

October 1982: Co-founds the Betty Ford Center at Eisenhower with Leonard Firestone to “assist women, men and their families in starting the process of recovery from alcoholism and other drug dependency.”

October 2002: Betty Ford Center celebrates its 20th anniversary.

May 2004: Susan Ford Bales chosen chair-elect of the Betty Ford Center board of directors.

January 2005: Bales takes over as board chair for the center. Betty Ford becomes “life chairman” of the board.

Used by permission of The (Palm Springs, CA) Desert Sun.

Related posts:

  1. Passing of the Torch
  2. The Betty Ford Center Appoints Garrett O’Connor Medical Director of Professional Recovery Program


One Response to “Betty Ford passes torch to daughter”

  1. Shaun K. says:

    I have just read the above facts and I’d like to say i have always admired Betty and the great work she has done with the Firestones and others. I have been sober in AA for a number of years now and am an historian of the 12 Step movement and i understand the connection with Henrietta Sieberling and Bill W. God Bless you all and I pray for further success for your organization and every footstep that comes through your door.

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