Success Stories

Do you know a GVSU faculty or staff member who serves as a role model for others living a healthy lifestyle? Nominate your co worker for our next newsletter!

July 2017: Cassonya Carter

Cassonya Carter

In 2005, Cassonya “Mama CC” Carter thought she had the flu. She was in and out of the hospital for four months without a diagnosis, until one day she was admitted to the emergency room. Things turned for the worse as she was put in a medically-induced coma, during which she had a stroke, an emergency surgery, and suffered paralysis on her left side. When Cassonya woke up two weeks later, she had several blood clots removed, 18 inches less of intestine, and found out she had ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. “I’d never heard of the disease until it almost took my life.” Read more

June 2017: Esther Ricco

Esther Ricco

Esther Ricco, Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Finance, will celebrate an 18 year anniversary working for GVSU this month. By the time she accepted her current position in 2009, she was going through big changes and had started making some big changes herself. Read more...

May 2017: Deborah Bell

Deborah Bell

Deborah Bell, Records Assistant at GVSU for 9 years, has always tried to maintain a somewhat healthy lifestyle. At a health fair last year, Deborah took advantage of an opportunity to step on a scale and was devastated by her numbers. Deborah began by making small changes, like cutting back on sweets and giving herself time to get up and walk. However, to obtain the results she wanted she knew she needed accountability. Read more...

April 2017: Jo Ann Litton

Jo Ann

Jo Ann Litton, Interim Director of CLAS Advising, has been with Grand Valley for over 30 years. Her healthy lifestyle change began about six years ago when she joined her friend in an early morning exercise class at GVSU. It was a small step for her to join since it fit in her schedule and was only 30 minutes, but soon she found many more motivations for getting healthy. Read more.

March 2017: Richard Frehafer


“Do something little every day, that one little step could be the step that gets you going. Never give up, you’re worth it". 

A few years ago Richard Freehafer, the IT Coordinator for Facilities Services and Planning at Grand Valley, realized he needed to make a change. “I couldn’t believe how bad it had gotten, it just crept up on me, and all of a sudden it was like holy cow I’m almost 400 pounds.” He immediately made a lifestyle change and began going to weight loss classes. Although he had lost around 40 pounds through the classes, Richard hit a standstill and decided something else needed to be done. Read More.

January 2017: Melissa Garland

Melissa Garland

“It has to be a life style change. Find what works for you, remember what it was like to be a kid and play, find what play works for you. For me, it’s figure skating .”

Melissa Garland, Adjunct Marketing Communications Coordinator, has been with Grand Valley in Institutional Marketing for two years. From the very start her co-workers have been supportive and have encouraged her to try the health and wellness classes available at Grand Valley. While she started out with nutrition courses, she soon took on physical exercise courses such as yoga and TRX. Read more

December 2016: Lynn "Chick" Blue

December 2016: Lynn "Chick" Blue

Chick Blue, Vice-President for Enrollment Development, has been with Grand Valley State University for 48 years.  Well known for her commitment to students and their education, Chick remains passionate about her work and is a driving force here at GVSU in helping students become successful adults. Read more

September 2016: Jerry Baltes

jerry baltes

Grand Valley State University track and field coach Jerry Baltes has been the head coach for eighteen years. Between family, cross country and track and field, Jerry is one busy man overseeing 180 students with help from five assistant coaches. Jerry and his coaching staff are constantly planning meets and keeping tabs on student grades and overall well-being. Though very busy, he still carves out time to stay active, practice mindfulness and eat a balanced diet. Read more

August 2016: Pam and Clark Wells

pam and clark wells

Pam and Clark Wells are professors in the Department of Mathematics at Grand Valley State University. Pam primarily teaches mathematics courses for future elementary teachers, focusing on both content and pedagogy, while Clark teaches primarily calculus and advanced courses for mathematics majors. Both are involved on campus. Read more

July 2016: Angela Amerson

angela amerson

Angela Amerson, Academic Coordinator in Diagnostic and Treatment Sciences at Grand Valley, used to weigh over 340 lbs. When she was young, she continually struggled with her weight and as she grew older she maintained a heavier frame, and continued the upward weight trend. After careful thought and consideration... Read more

June 2016: MarcQus Wright

marquest wright

MarcQus Wright, Director of TRiO Student Support services, started working in the Housing Department at Grand Valley in 2005. A positive man with a healthy mindset, MarcQus maintains his healthy mindset by practicing mindfulness. Read more

April 2016: Financial IQ Winners

iq winners

The GVSU Human Resources Health & Wellness teamed up with TIAA-CREF to host the “Save Up Your Savings Challenge” during the month of February... The winners of the challenge are now revealed! Congratulations Robyn Toth, Lisa Surman-Haight, and Alexianna Mundy! Read more

March 2016: Kathleen Vanderveen


Many people think they will never need to worry about eldercare. They make the plans to care for their parents themselves, saying  they would never place them in a nursing home. But plans can change, at least they did for Kathleen VanderVeen. Read more

February 2016: Kristina Mack


Though she prides herself on being a student, GVSU chemistry professor, and a mother, Kristina Mack is more than what others can see and, at times, more than she can see herself. Read more

January 2016: Scott Grissom


Scott Grissom, who has been a Professor of Computer Science at Grand Valley since 1999, attributes much of his success in maintaining a healthy lifestyle to Grand Valley’s health coaching service which he has been participating in for five years. Read more

To view other success stories, click on one of the links below:

2015 / 2014  / 2013 / 2012  / 2011  / 2010 



Page last modified August 1, 2017