The Ford House

Edsel & Eleanor Ford House tells the story of the home life of a prominent American family.

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Remembering Kathleen Mullins, Former President and CEO
Posted: October 18, 2019

Ford House is sorry to share the news that Kathleen Mullins, PhD, former president and CEO of Ford House, passed away on Tuesday, Oct. 15, following a long fight with ovarian cancer. Our condolences go out to her family and many friends.
 
Mullins was 71 years old. She had retired from her position at Ford House in May 2018, and moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, where she resided with her husband, James. 
 
For 10 years, Mullins served as president and CEO of Ford House, where she had a great impact on the estate and the community at large. During her time at Ford House, Mullins made it her mission to expand programming and make the estate more welcoming and accessible to the public. 
 
“Kathleen was a mentor, a colleague and a dear friend. I speak for the entire staff here at Ford House when I say that we are deeply saddened by the news of her passing,” Mark Heppner, current president and CEO of Ford House, said. “Ford House has been forever changed by Kathleen’s leadership and vision, and that legacy will live on.” 
 
Mullins led the charge on several significant projects. Most notably, she launched the largest new construction on the property since the historic house was completed in 1929, adding a 40,000-square-foot Visitor Center and a 17,000-square-foot administration building to the property, set to open in late 2020. The new buildings will offer a better visitor experience, while also removing staff operations from the historic spaces, which can then be restored and added to the tour programming. 
 
“Kathleen had the vision and began the important work of designing and breaking ground on our new Visitor Center and Administration buildings,” Heppner said. “We know she would be proud of how these buildings are coming along, and we are saddened that we will not be able to share the celebration of their opening with her next year. They are truly part of her legacy at Ford House.”
 
During her tenure, Mullins added historic vehicles to Ford House’s collection, focusing on cars significant to the story of Edsel Ford. Three of the cars will be featured in an exhibit in the new Visitor Center. Mullins also added an education department to Ford House, and brought events like the DSO at Ford House to the estate’s programming, bringing in thousands of new visitors each year. She also played a key role in the estate’s partnership with Fair Lane, Home of Clara & Henry Ford, in Dearborn. Mullins oversaw the transfer of Fair Lane from the University of Michigan to a new nonprofit and began the fundraising and restoration of the 1919 home.
 
Mullins also was involved in the local arts and culture community, as well as in the community of the Grosse Pointes. She served as chairwoman of the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce and Grosse Pointe Chamber Foundation for four years, and had also served as chairwoman of the Michigan Humanities Council. In 2018, Mullins was honored with a proclamation by the city of Grosse Pointe Shores. 
 
“Our family and the Board of Trustees at Ford House will be forever grateful to Kathleen for her dedication and work to preserve the estate and tell the Ford family story,” Lynn Ford Alandt, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees at Ford House, said. “Even more, though, she was a dear friend and will be truly missed by all who knew her.”
 
The family will hold a private service in Williamsburg. Memorial contributions may be made to the Van Elslander Cancer Center through the Ascension St. John Foundation. Visit https://stjohnprovfoundations.org/ways-to-give/donate-online and select Van Elslander Cancer Center-Service Support Fund. Mullins’ family also plans to create a fund for Historic Colonial Williamsburg.
 

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