2001 Distinguished Alumnus
VIRGIL GULKER, '69
Virgil Gulker has been described by friends and colleagues as a “serial social entrepreneur” who has created national and international volunteer programs and/or organizations to help disadvantaged populations. These organizations include LOVE INC, Love For Children, and, most recently, KIDS HOPE USA, the largest faith-based mentoring program for elementary-aged children in the United States and Australia.
Dr. Virgil Gulker is a social entrepreneur whose work engages church volunteers in the lives of at-risk children and families. Today he is a Servant Leader-in-Residence at the Hope College Center for Faithful Leadership, the first named to that position.
In 1995 Dr. Gulker founded KIDS HOPE USA, an innovative mentoring program that has trained over 700 churches in the United States and Australia to engage their members in one-to-one, I believe in you relationships with 10,000 at-risk elementary children.
Prior to his involvement with KIDS HOPE USA, he founded numerous other award-winning programs. LOVE INC (1978) mobilized over 300,000 volunteers from 9,000 churches to respond to over 1,000,000 people in need in 2008 and is active in two other countries.
Love Our Kids (1990) provided mentors for inner-city children in three cities; Love For Children (1991), funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and World Vision, linked church volunteers with children and families in the federal Women, Infants and Children and Head Start programs.
He also administered the first two-year college education program in the United States to award academic degrees to inmate students in a maximum security prison. This took place at Attica (NY) Correctional Facility with assistance from Batavia Community College. A scholarship was established in his name by Genesee Community College for Attica Correctional Facility Inmate Students.
As a volunteer, Dr. Gulker has served on many boards, most recently as a member of the Mentor Michigan Provider’s Council, the Educational Summit (Holland, MI), World Vision, Inc.’s U.S. Ministry Advisory Board, the Michigan Department of Public Health’s Task Force on Homeless Women, and the United Way of America’s Panel of Experts on America’s Children.
In addition to being the recipient of the 2001 Grand Valley State University Distinguished Alumnus Award, Dr. Gulker has received the Mustard Seed Award for Creativity, and has written numerous articles and books on volunteerism, including "Help Is Just Around the Corner" and "Helping You is Helping Me".
Virgil and his wife Kathleen, a Grand Valley alumna, are the proud parents of two daughters.