Susan Ford Bales is the Keynote Speaker at the 2024 UnMask the Stigma Gala on February 24, 2024.
She is an American author, photojournalist, and former chair of the board of the Betty Ford Center for alcohol and drug abuse. She is the daughter of Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, and his wife.
Susan was raised in Alexandria, Virginia and attended Holton Arms School and Mount Vernon College, where she studied photojournalism. She is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate Of Public Service degree, an Honorary Doctorate of Letters degree, and an Honorary Doctorate Of Humane Letters degree.
During her high school years, Susan lived in the White House and served as official White House hostess following her mother’s surgery for breast cancer in 1974. In 1984, she and her mother helped launch National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Susan subsequently served as national spokesperson for breast cancer awareness month.
In 2007, Susan was selected to become the Ship Sponsor for the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford., which she officially christened on November 9, 2013. A Ship Sponsor is a title given to a prominent citizen who is technically considered a permanent member of the ship’s crew and is expected to be an advocate for its continued service and well-being.
Susan has served as a Trustee of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation since 1981 and currently serves as Co-Chair of the Foundation’s Programs Committee. After the founding of the Betty Ford Center in 1982, Susan worked side by side with her mother on projects at the Center and was elected to the Center’s Board of Directors in 1992. She succeeded her mother as Chairman of the Board and served in that role from 2005 – 2010. She currently serves on the board of directors of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.
Susan also serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health, is Co-Trustee of the President Gerald R. Ford Historical Legacy Trust, a Trustee of the Elizabeth B. Ford Charitable Trust, a member of the Executive Board of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens Foundation, and is on the Honorary Advisory Committee of the Children’s National Medical Center.
In addition to her many charitable and public service activities, she is the author of two novels set in the White House, “Double Exposure: A First Daughter Mystery, written with Laura Hayden,” and its sequel, “Sharp Focus.”
Susan has ties to Kansas, having attended the University of Kansas in the spring of 1977. In addition, during her career as a photojournalist, she worked worked for both The Topeka Capitol Journal, as well as The Omaha Sun.
She currently resides in McKinney, TX.