More than 1,000 Grand Valley students participated in the fall commencement ceremony December 8 at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford and Betty Ford, gave the keynote address to students and their families.
Ford Bales has had a career in public service, currently serving as a trustee for the Gerald R. Ford Historical Legacy Trust and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. She serves as a global ambassador of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and served as chair of the Better Ford Center from 2005-2010. She is a board member of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens Foundation and the Bosque School in New Mexico.
Highlights from the ceremony include:
- Martin E. Marty, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, received an honorary doctor of letters, recognizing his contributions as an author and presenter on religion and culture.
- The Alumni Association presented two awards during the ceremony. Kathleen Underwood, director of the Women and Gender Studies program and associate professor of history, received the Outstanding Educator Award. Maryjean Schenk, vice dean for medical education at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, received the Distinguished Alumni Award.
- New to commencement this year was the addition of the Veteran cord. Veterans attending the ceremony, including graduating students, faculty and staff members, received a red, white and blue cord to wear with their cap and gown to recognize their service to the military.
- Susan Ford Bales encourages graduates to go out and make a difference. [audio]
- Ford Bales said Grand Rapids and its institutions, including Grand Valley, formed the core of Gerald and Betty Ford's lifetime of public service. [audio]
- Ford Bales asked graduates to never forget the men and women who served and are currently serving in the U.S. military. [audio]