Susan Ford, daughter of President Gerald Ford and First Lady Betty Ford, went to Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland. Like the majority of high schools, prom was a major event for the students. It was no different for Holton-Arms’ seniors. However, unlike most schools in the country, their prom was not held in the gym or at a local convention center. No, the location of Holton-Arm’s senior prom was none other than the White House. Some students had asked Susan if it would be possible to have it at the most famous home in the country. White House staff and the President and First Lady agreed to host it.
The 74 seniors and their dates had paid all the cost of the evening with their class fund (which they had been raising since seventh grade). They also had bake sales, dances and raffles to raise more money. Students on the prom committee created the flower arrangements and tablecloths themselves for the May 31, 1975 event.
Before the prom, Susan entertained her friends on board the Sequioa – the presidential yacht – on the Potomac. Having broken up with her boyfriend not long before prom, Susan asked Billy Pifer to go with her. He was a junior pre-med student at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia she met only three weeks earlier. On the Sequioa, the group ate supper and conversed before leaving to meet up with the rest of their classmates for the dance.
When students arrived at the White House they went through a receiving line in the Grand Hall. After doing so, they enjoyed hors d’oeuvres (miniature quiche lorraine and pigs-in-a-blanket) in the State Dining room. Dancing took place in the East Room from 8:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
The Beach Boys were asked to perform at a lower rate. Susan later stated, “Our dream was to have Beach Boys. We thought they’d do it for free.” The band agreed but only if they could film the event for later use. The White House declined. So, instead, the music for the dance was provided by two rock groups – the Outerspace Band and Sandcastle.
Not only did the venue differ from most proms but the whole class showed up. “Anybody could get a date,” Susan joked in a recent interview. All 74 senior students showed up at the White House with a date in hand to ‘cut a [presidential] rug!’ Additionally this prom had to deal with the press. Again, most prom goers do not have to do a question and answer with local and national reporters – nor were they covered by the Washington Post. Susan made a quick stop and talked with the media during the event.
Many parents wanted to be chaperones for obvious reasons. The class asked their favorite teachers to come instead (the Secret Service along with White House staff was also present). The President and First Lady were not home during Susan’s prom. They were away on a week-long trip to Europe and, while the prom was taking place, had traveled to Madrid, Spain from Brussels, Belgium. The First Lady did, however, fly Susan’s aunt in to keep an eye on the family quarters.