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Grand Valley honors major donors and 20 years of leaders

  • Kate Pew Wolters
  • Ronald VanSteeland
  • Thomas Wisner

Posted on June 02, 2009

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The Grand Valley University Foundation’s annual Enrichment Dinner will not only honor this year’s award recipients, but also celebrate the recipients of the Leadership Award over the past two decades. 

Scheduled for June 2 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, the event will honor the 20th anniversary of the Leadership Award, and all awardees since its inception in 1989 will be recognized. (Complete list of recipients is at bottom.)

The 2009 Enrichment Dinner honorees are Joyce S. and Thomas A. Wisner, Kate Pew Wolters, and Ronald F. VanSteeland. They will be recognized for their leadership, community philanthropy and civic engagement.

Joyce and Tom Wisner have continued a family legacy of philanthropy that started with Joyce’s father, Leslie E. Tassell. Tassell founded a successful automotive parts company, Lescoa, in Grand Rapids. The Tassells have been major supporters of Grand Valley’s engineering and health programs.

Tom Wisner is president of L.E.T. Inc., Land Acquisition and Development. He had held positions at Lescoa and now also manages the Caloosa Cove Marina and Resort in the Florida Keys. Joyce Tassell Wisner is treasurer of L.E.T. and president of the Tassell-Wisner-Bottrall Foundation, formerly known as the Leslie E. Tassell Foundation.

The Wisners have created their own connection with Grand Valley through scholarships. In 2007, they created an engineering scholarship that helps first-generation and non-traditional students, and supports students in product design. When the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences opened in 2003, the Wisners created a scholarship for doctoral physical therapy students.

Kate Pew Wolters was one of the first two recipients of the Leadership Award in 1989; and 20 years later, she remains a committed friend of the university. Wolters was appointed in 2004 to an eight-year term on the Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees. She has been a GVU Foundation trustee since 1992.

Her most recent gift to Grand Valley honors the memory of her mother, Mary Idema Pew, and her family’s commitment to learning and literacy. Wolters joined her father in a landmark gift that sets the stage for the university’s new library, the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons.

Wolters is chair of the Steelcase Foundation and a member of the company’s board of directors. She is also president of the Kate and Richard Wolters Foundation, which gives grants to nonprofits dedicated to the arts, education and human services.

She serves on the board for a number of organizations, including the Progressive Women’s Alliance of West Michigan, Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, and as co-chair of the Kent County Children’s Commission. Wolters is also a board member of the Mary and Robert Pew Public Education Fund, established by her parents to address public education in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Ronald F. VanSteeland will receive the Arend D. Lubbers Award, presented to faculty and staff members for service to the community and university. VanSteeland started working at Grand Valley in 1966, as the first personnel officer. Thirty-five years later, he retired as vice president for Finance and Administration. As a trusted advisor to Lubbers, VanSteeland helped Grand Valley grow from a small college of 2,000 students to a regional university with more than 24,000 students. In his honor, the Board of Trustees named a living center as the Ronald F. VanSteeland Living Center.

The recognition of the university’s Leadership Awardees will be an added highlight of the evening. “The energy and dedication of these men and women have strengthened West Michigan’s tradition of philanthropy and service and set a powerful example for emerging leaders to follow,” said Maribeth Wardrop, vice president for Development. 

By recognizing individuals in the early or middle years of their lives and careers, the award has helped to stimulate involvement by new generations interested in serving their community. Since their awards, the recipients have gone on to lead local fundraising campaigns for various nonprofits, become trustees of national foundations and major universities, and create scholarships. Some have had buildings named for their generosity, and others have continued to grow their businesses and other nonprofit organizations. 

Grand Valley University Foundation Leadership Award Recipients
Kate Pew Wolters
Fred P. Keller

Donna K. Brooks
John C. Kennedy

Kyle Smith Irwin
Hank Meijer

Doyle A. Hayes ’75
Mary Lee Scanlon

Cathy Bissell
Dan DeVos

Pamella G. DeVos
James P. Hackett

Meg Miller Willit

Mitchell G. Watt

Daniel J. Hurwitz

Randall S. Damstra ’82

Starr Meijer

Carol Van Andel


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