1,400 donors made it happen

University officials said the new library represents the next generation of learning for Grand
Valley students. It gives the university the capacity to educate future students to be
leaders in their communities, successful in their careers, and engaged in public service — all attributes that aligned with Mary Idema Pew’s beliefs. The Mary Idema Pew Library is
Grand Valley’s first philanthropic naming of a building for a woman, and the university thanks the 1,400-plus donors who made this model for 21st century learning a reality.

Kate Pew Wolters
 

During the 2010 groundbreaking ceremony for the library, Kate Pew Wolters said: “It’s very meaningful to us that Grand Valley would honor my mother this way. The new library stands for education and knowledge, and it also represents the pride that West Michigan takes in learning.” Wolters is a member of Grand Valley’s Board of Trustees and a Grand Valley University Foundation director. She has followed her father’s legacy of philanthropic giving and leadership; her gift was in memory of her mother.

She relayed how her father, Bob Pew, talked about the library when he said, “It’s not about us. It’s about supporting Grand Valley and the great school it’s become.” Wolters added, “It’s also about Mom and the legacy she leaves behind.”

To help get the library up and running, Mary Ann Keeler and her husband, Miner S. Keeler, who died in 2003, made the very first gift to build the library on the Allendale Campus before architectural renderings of the building existed. The Keelers have always been a part of the campus community, and they had a vision that Grand Valley would be able to replace the Zumberge Library with a state-of-the-art learning and information commons.   

“We believe great universities should have great libraries,” Mary Ann Keeler said. “We immediately decided to give a major initial gift to initiate a new library, which would incorporate web-enabled revolutionary new technology for summoning knowledge from all over the world.” 

West Michigan support

The Idema name is well-known in West Michigan and is often synonymous with great philanthropy and leadership. Bill and Bea Idema have always been strong supporters of organizations in West Michigan. Bill died in 2008, and Bea has continued his legacy of philanthropy with multiple projects including the Mary Idema Pew Library.

Bea Idema, left, and Mary Ann Keeler

Bill and Mary Idema’s philanthropic personalities stemmed from their father, Walter Idema, who was one of the founders of Steelcase Inc. The Steelcase Foundation has supported Grand Valley over the decades. Their gift helped to provide the building with the Steelcase Foundation Rooftop Terrace, which allows students and faculty members respite from their work.

The Frey Foundation has generously supported Grand Valley for decades and played a key role in the development of both the Allendale and downtown campuses. Edward J. and Frances T. Frey established the Frey Foundation in 1974 with the conviction that educated
citizens are the pillar of a prosperous community and a vibrant nation. The Frey Foundation Plaza, named in their honor, will enrich the academic experience and serve as a gathering place for the university community.

The Batts family has provided tremendous support for the Mary Idema Pew Library, and the second floor is named in their honor. Jack and his wife, Nancy, have lived their faith by making visionary investments in education and health care that have touched the lives of many people in West Michigan. As longtime supporters of Grand Valley they also helped make possible the university’s campus in Grand Rapids. All of Jack and Nancy’s children — John, Michael, James and Robert — and grandchildren are continuing the family’s legacy of giving.

Jim and Donna Brooks were instrumental in supporting the library and by serving as co-chairs of the Shaping Our Future campaign. Donna said the couple worked on the campaign because they believe in Grand Valley and the opportunities it provides for the entire community. Donna said, “We want to help shape the future.” Jim added, “Grand Valley is at a pivotal point in its history.”

Dan DeVos said the entire community “will benefit from the kind of leading-edge learning center that will create new experiences for Grand Valley students.” Dan and his wife, Pam, have been longtime supporters of Grand Valley; they also served as co-chairs of the 2008 Shaping Our Future campaign.

“I’m excited for the future of West Michigan and especially the future and outlook for Grand Valley. We have great people making great things happen. The future is in our hands,” he said. 

The library represents Grand Valley’s promise to prepare today’s students to succeed in a rapidly evolving global economy. 

Before he passed away in 2012, Bob Pew said: “My wife cared about education because of what it could do for people’s lives. Her compassion was with everyday people. We know this library will benefit everyone in the region as it raises the academic achievement of Grand Valley students.” 


Mary Idema Pew: a trailblazer

Mary Idema Pew was actively involved in helping all communities where she lived, but especially her native city of Grand Rapids. Her life on Washington Street, in the heart of Grand Rapids, as well as membership in the Idema family, one of the original founding families of Steelcase Inc., tied her strongly to the area.   

Pew was a trailblazer. She served as a WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during World War II and provided LINK training to pilots. After marrying Robert C. Pew II, she enrolled in classes at Wesleyan University, where she was among one of the first women students admitted to the all-male school. Pew remained passionate about education, believing it was the key to unlocking doors.

While she and Robert raised three children, she was a member of the Junior League, the PTA, and active in many social and educational causes in West Michigan. Although Pew never sought recognition, the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons serves as a perfect tribute to a woman who valued education and touched the lives of many people in West Michigan, according to university leaders.

Robert C. Pew II: lasting legacy

Bob Pew’s love of learning and his interest in the welfare of the community allowed him to leave a lasting legacy not only on Grand Valley, but the entire Grand Rapids area.

Pew was part of the university since its beginning when he served as a founding member of the Grand Valley State College Citizen’s Council. He later served on Grand Valley’s Board of Control and helped lead the expansion of the university into downtown Grand Rapids, what is now the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

His influence helped to secure the land and funding for the Eberhard Center and the Meijer Public Broadcast Center. Pew served on the Grand Valley University Foundation. He continued his support for Grand Valley by providing the lead gift for the Mary Idema Pew Library in memory of his late wife, Mary Idema Pew.  

Page last modified August 26, 2013