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Our Founding Story

Grand Valley has a deeply rooted culture of giving. To understand this culture it is helpful to understand how the university was a 37 year old man and a community with high hopes.


High Hopes

L. William Seidman was a Grand Rapids businessman and the widely recognized “father of Grand Valley State University.” Seidman, in the late 1950s, had the somewhat radical idea to establish an independent, state-supported, four-year institution of higher education in West Michigan. He led the movement to gain community support for the university.


In a May 2009 interview Seidman remembered the days when Grand Valley was only a hope.


The Million Dollar Challenge

When the bill proposing the new college was finally passed it contained several significant amendments. Most important was the requirement that before the college could receive a charter, the Board of Control must raise $1 million, comparable to $10-15 million today, without public taxation.

Grand Valley’s founders began the largest capital fundraising effort ever undertaken in West Michigan. Thanks to their dedicated efforts Grand Valley State College opened its doors to students in 1963.

To read Grand Valley’s complete history please visit the 50th anniversary website.


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