In 1950, the newly-founded university's serious shortage of funds led Edwin Redslob, the second rector of Freie Universität, to ask for the subsidy from the United States to be doubled. He was supported in his pleas by American visiting professors at Freie Universität such as Fritz Epstein, and also by high-ranking officials in the U.S. military authority in Berlin, since this subsidy, albeit generous, was not enough to cover one-off costs, such as the urgently-needed construction of a central auditorium and library building.
Frank Howley, the Commander of the American sector, had arranged a contact with the Ford Foundation in 1949, and later the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John J. McCloy, spoke to Paul G. Hoffman, the President of the Ford Foundation, whom he knew personally. In 1951, Henry Ford II, the grandson of the Ford Motor Company's founder, visited Berlin and the FU together with Paul G. Hoffman. In that same year, a donation was made of the enormous sum of 5,499,900 DM. A large part of the money was earmarked for building purposes. This enabled work to begin on the University Library, the teaching building with the main auditorium (Henry Ford Building) and the new canteen.
The Henry Ford Building was completed in 1954 and inaugurated in the presence of Germany's Federal Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer.
A milestone in the history of the still young Freie Universität was the visit from the President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, who was awarded honorary citizenship of Freie Universität. On June 26, 1963, he held a programmatic speech in front of the Henry Ford Building.
Freie Universität Berlin celebrated the re-opening of the renovated Henry Ford Building with an open day on April 16, 2007. After a two-year period of renovation, the building was re-opened at the beginning of the summer semester. Extensive renovation and reconstruction have given this architectural gem of the 1950s a new luster.