Courtesy photo Dr. Frank X. Ford

The Samohi community is mourning the death of longtime local educator Dr. Frank X. “Doc” Ford after his March 12 death due to Alzheimer’s disease. Ford was 81.

For 23 years, from 1985-2008, Ford taught theater and film at Samohi, as well as directing plays and musicals there. 

On Thursday, March 24, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education paid tribute to Ford at the start of a special board meeting, inviting Parkhouse to speak about her stepfather’s legacy in the Santa Monica community.

At the meeting, his stepdaughter Karen Parkhouse read a statement from Samohi class of 1989 alumnus Shawn Peters.

“His impact on this community and this school system are impossible to overstate,” Parkhouse said, reading from Peters’ prepared words.

“He educated, directed and advocated for his theater program with an unapologetic Chicago-born bravado that lined up with his expectations of every production,” Peters wrote. “He loved a good story well told. He proposed and produced shows that were audacious from the start, such as the four-and-a-half-hour high school world premiere of Dickens’ ‘Nicholas Nickleby,’ Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ under the stars in the Greek theater, and many, many elaborate musicals in Barnum Hall.”

According to an obituary published in the LA Times and on legacy.com, Ford came to Samohi an accomplished actor and scholar of drama, having attended Loyola University Chicago and Illinois State before earning PhDs in drama and cinema from USC.

Parkhouse said Ford died at the Santa Monica home he shared with his wife Jo Davis. Ford also left behind his children Amy Enns-Ford (Lionel), Ian Ford, and Jack Ford; stepdaughter Karen Parkhouse (Leon); and grandchildren Macallan, Tallulah, Jocelyn, Megan and Caelum.

“His former students still carry memories of his booming laugh, his silky smooth jump shot during weekend pick-up games and his words of pure support and enthusiasm on opening night, or really, anytime anyone needed his advice,” Peters wrote. “He was there for us. Doc wasn’t just a teacher; he was a mentor, an inspiring role model, a talented actor and director.”

SMMUSD School Board President Maria Leon-Vazquez said Ford had taken thousands of students under his wing, leading them to professional goals within or outside the arts.

“Please give our best to your mother and to your family,” Leon-Vazquez told Parkhouse.

The District also released a statement that said, in part, “He will be missed by all who had the pleasure to know him. Our school board and district leadership send condolences and thoughts to his family and friends during this difficult time.”

Ford’s family and friends planned to host a celebration of life at Samohi’s Barnum Hall on June 26 at 3 p.m. They were also accepting donations in his honor to OPICA.org, an adult day program and counseling center in West LA.

emily@smdp.com