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Once the first woman becomes president, men will have trouble even getting the party nomination, former President Gerald Ford predicted.

Ford, speaking Wednesday with 100 schoolchildren, predicted that a woman would be elected vice president soon on either the Republican or Democratic ticket."The president will die, and the woman will become president," said Ford. "I think it will probably come some time in the next eight years."

Ford said that once a woman breaks through to the highest office in the land, it will mark a new era. "Once that barrier is broken, men had better be careful because they will have a hard time even getting the nomination."

Ford was questioned at the Hoover Library and Museum as part of a symposium on the role of former presidents. During the session, he sat on a panel, met with the youngsters at a rural school and spoke at a dinner.

The youngsters probed Ford about his pardon of former President Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 under the cloud of Watergate.

"There were many serious problems on my desk," Ford said. "I was spending 25 percent of my time on the problems of one man at a time when I should have been spending 100 percent of my time on the problems of 240 million Americans.

"The only way for me to get rid of the problems of one man was to pardon Mr. Nixon," said Ford.

Despite the furor that sparked, and his loss to Jimmy Carter in 1976, the decision was right, Ford said. "I'm more convinced now than I was then that it was the right thing to do."

The forum was aimed at discussing ways the nation could use the experience of the four current living former presidents - Ford, Nixon, Carter and Reagan.

Ford insisted that he wants no formal role, preferring the quiet influence of personal contact.