Fifty years ago, Grand Valley welcomed its first students, its pioneer class.
On August 23 during Convocation at the Fieldhouse Arena, faculty and staff members welcomed the newest Lakers, who represent the Class of 2017. The venue was different, and the technology has, of course, changed, but the messages presented by speakers during Convocation likely had similar themes to those presented in 1963: Grand Valley is a student-centered institution that offers a liberal education.
President Thomas J. Haas told first-year students that a liberal education remains the cornerstone of Grand Valley. “We want a diploma from Grand Valley to signal to employers and to the community that you are a critical thinker,” Haas said, adding, “you value diversity of thought and you understand the complexity of the world and the value of teamwork.”
Haas urged new students to take advantage of the university’s newest facilities: the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons and the L. William Seidman Center. He said those facilities and many other resources available on campus will help students apply knowledge and achieve.
A video, "Grand Valley State Through the Decades," seen above, premiered at Convocation.
During his opening address to faculty and staff members prior to Convocation, Haas said Grand Valley’s course over the past 50 years has set the stage for future success, particularly in challenging financial times. He reminded the audience that enrollment remains critical, calling it job No. 1. “No public university is as enrollment dependent as Grand Valley is,” he said. “Steady enrollment is essential for our financial model. We must promise what we can deliver and deliver on the promises we make to students and to each other.”
Other Convocation speakers shared advice with new students. Karen Gipson, chair of the University Academic Senate, explained how her recovery from a 2010 stroke somewhat parallels the journey first-year students have before them. Gipson, associate professor of physics, said her recovery was dependent on four principles — good fortune, excellent support, persistence and patience. Each of those qualities will help students be successful, she said.
Ricky Benavidez, president of Student Senate, recalled being afraid of attending his first college class in 2009. He told students that Grand Valley quickly became a home for him, and the many new faces he saw quickly became his friends. “Grand Valley offers you a chance to expand your minds and views,” Benavidez said. “This is your turn to lead your own future.”