Grand Forum

Grand Forum is a member-based educational program for adults 55 years and older who are eager to both learn and engage with peers. Grand Forum provides an opportunity for members to meet in an academic setting for the purpose of intellectual stimulation and social exchange. 

Members come from a variety of backgrounds and areas, and include GVSU alumni, staff, faculty, retirees and community members from all educational backgrounds. The diversity of the group leads to thought-provoking and challenging questions and discourse about timely topics.

Become a Member

Retire Well Series

A couple smiles for a photo at an alumni event

Retire Well is a virtual, 5-part series about information you need to know before and during retirement. Topics include:

  • Medicare
  • Estate planning
  • Investing and income in retirement
  • Maximizing social security
  • Hidden costs of aging

Sessions start January 19. Free and open to all.

Learn more about Retire Well

Program Schedule

10:00 - 11:30 a.m. Locally Grown Food and the Grand Valley Farm with Michael Hinkle, GVSU Farm Manager and Educator

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lunch break

12:30 - 2:00 p.m. Dutch Art History with Henry Luttikhuizen

10:00 - 11:30 a.m. Frances Perkins and the Women Behind the New Deal with GVSU Professor Dr. Judy Whipps

In 1933, with the US facing 25% unemployment, FDR appointed Frances Perkins as Secretary of Labor. She became the first woman to sit on a Presidential Cabinet; the first “Madame Secretary.” Perkins’s initiatives formed the basis of FDR’s “New Deal” legislation and still affect us today: Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, child labor legislation, and minimum wage laws. Her path to these historic accomplishments began at Jane Addams’s Hull House and her career developed through a strong community of reform-minded women who mentored and supported her.

Dr. Judy Whipps is GVSU Professor Emerita of Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies. She has published dozens of articles on women in the Progressive Era and is currently working on a book about feminist and pragmatism in the 1920s and 30s.

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lunch break

12:30 - 2:00 p.m.  The Grand Haven Bank Robbery with Judge David Buter

The Depression Era created a culture wherein bank robbers not only briefly thrived, but became legendary. We will examine the context within which these robberies occurred and the efforts by the fledgling FBI and underfunded local law enforcement to combat them. We will look at the details of the Great Grand Haven Bank Robbery and learn how the locals refused to roll over for some of the most notorious and violent bank robbers of the era. We will examine the post-robbery legal environment which led to the conviction and imprisonment of a man who had never been to Grand Haven. In summary, I will tell the sometimes amusing story of the day the Hollanders took on the Hooligans.

Judge David Buter attended Grand Rapids East Christian High School, Calvin University, and Thomas M Cooley Law School. He earned his Juris Doctor in 1975 and worked with the Kent County Prosecutor's Office through 1981. David then went into private practice with the law firm of Linsey, Strain and Worsfold. In 1995 he was appointed by the Governor to a vacant judgeship on the 61st District Court bench. David remained in that position until his retirement in April 2022. He served as Chief Judge of the Court for several terms. David has been married to Sandra for 49 years. They have 5 children and 12 grandchildren, all living within two miles of his home. David recently accepted a position with his old law firm, now known as Bosch, Killman and VanderWal, P.C. David engages in a general practice for the firm and serves as a certified mediator. In his free time, David enjoys watching his grandchildren, golfing, and volunteering.

10:00 - 11:30 a.m.  The State of the University with GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella joined by Fatma Mili, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

President Mantella is the first woman and the fifth president to lead Grand Valley State University, the fourth-largest university in Michigan. She has an impressive 30-year career in higher education marked with success propelling universities forward into new markets, expanded relationships, and countless new program innovations. She has improved student outcomes and market position at each university she has served. She is currently leading Grand Valley State University through the challenges of our time, most notably the global pandemic, with an eye on the future, relevance and growth amid disruption. In the last two years, she has expanded the university’s offerings and potential learners with programs aimed at non-traditional and underrepresented students. She developed a national alliance to raise underserved student voices, improved pathways to graduation, and brought student insights forward in institutional transformation. Collaborating across sectors, she embraces the role of education in shaping lives and communities. Mantella is committed to leading with integrity and keeping an unrelenting focus on empowering talented faculty and staff to accelerate GVSU’s trajectory and success.

Mantella has worked at public and private institutions in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Michigan. At each institution, she has developed strategy, working across academic and service domains to drive growth initiatives that include: developing new formats of education, digital delivery and mutually beneficial partnerships. At Northeastern University, she shaped and executed the strategy to move from a single place-based university to a global university system, opening the first seven regional campuses worldwide. She earned a Ph.D. in college and university administration from Michigan State University and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Syracuse University.

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lunch break

12:30 - 2:00 p.m.  Senior Leadership Team Panel including:

Laura Aikens, Vice President for University Development

Stacie Behler, Vice President and Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer

Jesse Bernal, Chief of Staff to the President & Vice President for Inclusion and Equity

Jenny Hall- Jones, Vice President for Student Affairs

Milos Topic, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Digital Officer

10:00 - 11:30 a.m. Cryptocurrency with Aaron Sundman, Digital Specialist, Amway

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lunch break

12:30 - 2:00 p.m. Mathias Alten Artwork Tour in the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery with Henry Matthews, Former Director of Galleries and Collections, GVSU

10:00 - 11:30 a.m. Speaker to be announced soon.

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lunch break

12:30 - 2:00 p.m. Speaker to be announced soon.

10:00 - 11:30 a.m. Speaker to be announced soon.

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lunch break

12:30 - 2:00 p.m. Speaker to be announced soon.

10:00 - 11:30 a.m. Speaker to be announced soon.

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lunch break

12:30 - 2:00 p.m. Speaker to be announced soon.

10:00 - 11:30 a.m.  The Current and Future State of Grand Rapids with Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Lunch break

12:30 - 2:00 p.m. Speaker to be announced soon.


Members must be 55 years or older
Annual cost per person
Access to 16 special lectures per year
Join a fantastic social network

Grand Forum member Steele Taylor and Advisory Board member Kathryn Bultman
Grand Forum members Ina Jane Hollenbeck, Dave Kempers, and Jean Blossfeld

“There are few programs geared for this growing segment of the population. Today's retired adults are an active population who enjoy intellectual challenges, and many prefer to engage in such activities with their peers. The Grand Forum provides opportunity for both under the University's direction.”

Calvin Stockman, Former Dean of Continuing Education

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the Grand Forum for?

The Grand Forum is an educational outreach program for adults 55 and older who are eager to learn, love to meet new people, and enjoy discussing impactful topics with their peers.

How much does it cost?

Membership for the Grand Forum is $150 per person per year. For this moderately priced membership fee, Grand Forum provides access to a series of special lectures. These intellectually stimulating programs are taught by faculty from area colleges and universities as well as experts from a variety of diverse disciplines. Programming will take place in-person at GVSU’s downtown campus and will also be available virtually through Zoom webinar.  

What can I expect?

In addition to spending time with friends, you'll have plenty of opportunities to make new ones. As a member, you are invited to attend sixteen (16) in-person special lectures throughout the year. Members come from a variety of backgrounds and areas, such as alumni, GVSU retirees and community members. The diversity of the group leads to thought-provoking and challenging questions and comments after the presentation.

What is expected of me?

Through presentations and discussions, the Grand Forum provides a broad spectrum of stimulating programs in a setting that encourages lively discussion. An interest in learning is an essential part of your membership. You will also need to RSVP for each event you wish to attend.

Do I have to live in the Grand Rapids area?

Grand Forum programs are made available to members in a hybrid format. Members can choose to attend presentations in person or can tune in online. 

Photo Gallery

Become a member of the Grand Forum

Sign-up today

Page last modified January 17, 2023