Michael Bigford, an avid supporter of students focused on furthering their education, has been appointed to The Ferris Foundation Board of Directors.
Bigford, president and CEO of Reed City-based Utility Supply and Construction Company, sees his appointment as another opportunity to serve the university and its home.
“Ferris is supremely important to the health of our community, and being in a position to give is a great gift,” said Bigford, who lives in Big Rapids with his wife, JoAnn.
Bigford, who was born and raised in Jackson, earned business and engineering technology degrees from Davenport University and Northwestern Michigan College. He worked for Consumers Energy from 1976 to 1993, and held a variety of positions that included responsibility for distribution line and substation construction for the western half of Michigan.
In his current role, as president and CEO of Utility Supply and Construction, Bigford employs about 1,000 people in its subsidiaries of The Hydaker-Wheatlake Co. and Power Line Supply, both in Reed City, Hydrolake Inc. in McBain, and Crossroads Mobile Maintenance. The company provides material and construction support services for utilities throughout the Midwest and eastern United States.
Bigford also serves as chairman of Ferris’ College of Business Advisory Board, which he joined in 2005, and is past president of the North American Association of Utility Distributors and a Hope Network board member.
“I will use my personal experiences to provide insight on what employers will need from our future workforce,” Bigford said of how he hopes to contribute to The Ferris Foundation board. “I hope to help align the foundation’s efforts to support students in need as well as rewards for academic excellence, and support and validate philanthropic and fundraising strategies.”
Bigford said he believes the university can continue to best prepare students for successful careers by focusing and marketing its differentiating features, continue to modify curriculums to support current and future employer requirements, and offer opportunities for students to manage the cost of higher education.
“Mike is a dynamic leader who has been instrumental in moving goals in the corporate sector,” said Carla Miller, executive director of The Ferris Foundation. “Mike has extensive business experience and is well-connected at the national level. His ideas and opinions will help us in many ways, as his directorship will further strengthen the position of The Ferris Foundation.”
Bigford and his wife, JoAnn, whose son, Christopher, is a Professional Golf Management major who will graduate from Ferris in the spring, initiated the Michael and JoAnn Bigford Mentorship Fund, an endowed scholarship for Ferris PGM students.
“We developed our scholarship that rewards PGM upperclassmen for overall performance, not just academics,” he said.
The grandfather of one also supports and coaches junior hockey and is an avid outdoorsman and fly fisherman who enjoys golf, boating and hunting.
The Ferris Board of Trustees approved Bigford’s appointment during its regular meeting in November. The board also appointed Stephanie Leonardos, of Ada, president and CEO of Amerikam, Inc.; and Karl Linebaugh, of Big Rapids, North Region president for Chemical Bank.
Since it was established in 1991 to address the need for a long-range fundraising program to provide opportunities for students, The Ferris Foundation has increased endowment funds to more than $35 million. It is governed by the board of directors, whose members are appointed for three-year terms.
“Karl Linebaugh and Michael Bigford will help us continue our emphasis on maintaining and furthering our connections to the Big Rapids and Reed City communities,” said board chair Kevin Cross. “Both men have substantial ties to these areas and years of strong leadership in both the banking and construction industries, respectively. We are excited to have them on the board.
“Stephanie Leonardos is a true pioneer in the Grand Rapids business and philanthropic communities. Under her leadership, Amerikam has become one of the top manufacturers and innovators in Michigan,” Cross continued. “She also makes time to give back to her community and continues to support Ferris students annually with the Amerikam scholarship. We welcome her experience as we build our foundation in Grand Rapids.”