Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Ford gives Ali $5 million

Donation for peace center

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — Muhammad Ali's quest to build a center to promote peace accelerated Tuesday with a $5 million donation from Ford Motor Co. that has organizers envisioning the start of construction.

        The automaker's gift, the largest private donation for the Muhammad Ali Center, pushes fund raising to the point that “we can see ground breaking right around the corner,” said Ali's wife, Lonnie.

[photo] Three-time former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali takes the stage Tuesday at a news conference in Louisville announcing a $5 million contribution from Ford for his peace center in Louisville.
(Associated Press photo)
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        So far, $32 million has been raised and organizers say $60 million is needed to start construction. They also need to raise another $20 million for operating costs. They hope for a groundbreaking early next year and an opening in late 2003.

        The former three-time heavyweight champion envisions the center as a crowning achievement to his humanitarian efforts around the world.

        Mrs. Ali, speaking on her husband's behalf, said the Ali center would continue the ex-boxer's humanitarian ideals.

        “We know Muhammad will not be able to travel and work as he does forever,” Mrs. Ali said. “But we believe that his legacy must continue to inspire people to respond to each other with kindness.”

        The center will commemorate Mr. Ali's boxing career but will emphasize his philosophy, not his achievements in the ring, his wife said.

        The center, in partnership with the University of Louisville, will feature an institute aimed at conflict resolution.

        Mr. Ali, who has Parkinson's disease, did not speak at the announcement but was the center of attention. After posing with Ford officials and his wife while holding an oversized check, Mr. Ali tucked the check under his arms and began to walk from the stage, drawing laughter from the crowd gathered near the waterfront.

        The contribution comes from the Ford Motor Co. Fund, a not-for-profit corporation that supports initiatives to enhance education, the environment, health and welfare, civic affairs, and arts and humanities.

        Ford has two production plants in greater Louisville and employs about 10,000 people.

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