John WheelerView all stories
After spending decades building his career in the construction industry, John Wheeler now dedicates much of his time to leading volunteer efforts. While serving as principal-in-charge at the Rockford Construction Company, Inc. John's guidance and generosity made a number of programs possible that benefit the community. Wheeler provided an opportunity for Grand Valley State University students to demonstrate that type of leadership, while bettering the local community, through the creation of the West Side Service Projects Endowment.
Rockford Construction created the endowment in 2005 to support community service projects by GVSU engineering students. Many of these ventures are completed in collaboration with students from Sibley Elementary, a downtown Grand Rapids school.
One popular program overseen by engineering students is the annual Pinewood Derby Race. Between 70 and 90 Sibley Elementary 5th graders design, build, and race a derby car with the help of engineering students each year. Engineering professor Shirley Fleischmann says developing a race car is enriching to the young students.
"It is important to these children to gain a sense of mastery and this helps a lot," Fleischmann said. "Getting those children into a college environment and encouraging them to stay in school - that is the main contribution."
The program also benefits the older students by providing them with an opportunity to apply their expertise and demonstrate leadership.
At Wheeler's suggestion, the Seymour and Esther Padnos College of Engineering and Computing also began the Green House on Watson project, which the endowment helped fund. The project's mission was to create an energy-efficient, affordable home for a low-income family in Grand Rapids' West Side. Upon its completion, the house achieved the LEED Silver certification level from the U.S. Green Building Council.