Feature Stories

Deirdre Toeller-Novak, '76

Deirdre Toeller-Novak, '76

While the rest of life and its accomplishments are important to life’s purpose, Deirdre counts her greatest blessings in her roles as wife, mom, and grandma.  Married to Tom in 1976 (it was a very good year since she became a GVSU alum in the same year), points of light in their world include John and Tim Kosak, daughter-in-law Jennifer, and GRANDsons Josh and Caleb. 

Deirdre claims that her professional and volunteer history reach back to the time of T-Rex.  Her entire career has been spent working with outstanding West Michigan non-profit and municipal organizations (crime, animals, education, lawyers, and victims of abuse)—currently Hospice of Michigan.  She hopes that she was able to play forward the hand up that she was offered; to further efforts toward social justice; and to help to care for children.

As a young, nearly broke single mother, Deirdre’s “biggest break” came when the then Dean of Students at Grand Rapids Community College (then GRJC) wrote a personal “scholarship” check so that she could return to college. Thanks, Anne.  At GVSU, Deirdre’s classes were arranged around naptime for her sons; she has never learned to work well in setting without distractions.  One of her greatest lessons came from a former GVSU president who said, “It’s all about relationship.”  Thank you, Don.

Educational opportunities created Deirdre’s foundation for employment, volunteer service, and shaped the parenting of her children.  Volunteer service began with the Parent-Teacher Organization at Ottawa Elementary and Iroquois Middle Schools in Grand Rapids. Deirdre was later elected to serve two terms with the Grand Rapids and GRJC Boards of Education - serving as treasurer, president, and legislative liaison. 

In light of the truly distinguished professional achievements of later “distinguished alums,” Deirdre feels secure in turning over the reins of leadership to the next generations.  She is proud that her grandson, Josh, will attend GVSU in fall 2011 and plans to teach math.

Deirdre’s current community service is with the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids where she attempts to live into Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self” and with her church.  Her most significant awards and titles include: #1 Mom, Cool Grandma, and Favorite Wife.

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