Women in Sports - Profiles

Faith Heikkila

Faith Heikkila

Faith Heikkila, ’81, chief information security officer
Greenleaf Trust, Kalamazoo

Faith Heikkila played three varsity sports — basketball, softball and field hockey — at Grand Valley in the late 1970s.

Well, four sports, if you count the time coach Joan Boand asked her to join the track team to throw the shot put and discus for an afternoon meet.

“Technically, I guess I was on the track roster for that year,” she said, jokingly.

Those were the early days of women’s athletics at Grand Valley: ad-hoc teams that had room for everyone. Heikkila said she loved every minute of it.

“Recruiting other players for field hockey meant running into the dorms and yelling, ‘Who wants to do a lot of running?’” she said.

Heikkila grew up playing sports and said living in a house with six kids meant there was always some game going. Her parents led the charge. “My mother was pregnant with my brother when she tore all of the ligaments in her ankle playing volleyball,” she said.

When she came to Grand Valley, Heikkila found a campus that was quickly adapting to the enthusiasm women students had for sports teams.

Heikkila graduated in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She now serves as chief information security officer for Greenleaf Trust in Kalamazoo. She also has nearly 20 years of experience working as a paralegal and in IT project management. Heikkila earned a master’s degree from Ferris State University and a doctorate in information systems, specializing in information assurance, from Nova Southeastern University.

Heikkila, who earned Grand Valley’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010, said she enjoyed the camaraderie of playing team sports. In her first start as catcher on the softball team, the Lakers were playing the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“The softball field faced the Big House. That made quite a big impression on me,” she said.

The leadership skills she learned by being a student-athlete have helped her advance throughout her career.

“I remember my interview at Greenleaf; they wanted to know if I was a good team player,” she said. “In my days at Grand Valley, I was a leader and a good follower.

“Being on a team means you’re able to help with whatever it is that needs to be done.”

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