FORUM Vol. 42, No. 17 April 23, 2018

Grand Valley to celebrate thousands at commencement

More than 3,000 students will participate in commencement ceremonies April 27 and 28 at Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids.

The ceremonies will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 27, and at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 28. Raymond Bennett, a Grand Valley alumnus and chief global officer for Marriott International Inc., is the speaker for the Friday ceremony. The morning speaker on Saturday is U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, who has represented Michigan in the U.S. Senate since 2014, and the afternoon speaker is Teresa Weatherall Neal, superintendent for Grand Rapids Public Schools. 


Raymond Bennett

The April 27 ceremony will include the following colleges: Seidman College of Business, College of Community and Public Service and Padnos College of Engineering and Computing. The morning ceremony on April 28 will include: College of Health Professions, science programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Kirkhof College of Nursing. The afternoon ceremony on April 28 will include: College of Education, Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies and liberal arts programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Bennett graduated from Grand Valley in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in business administration. Before joining Marriott in 2011, he worked for Pepsi Bottling Group for more than 11 years in various managerial roles. He serves on the national board of directors of KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) and is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, an organization composed of African American CEOs and senior executives. 

Peters was selected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008. He currently serves on four committees, including the Senate Armed Services, and Homeland Security and Government Affairs committees. For more than 20 years, Peters worked as an investment advisor. He volunteered for the U.S. Navy Reserve and rose to the rank of lieutenant commander. 


Gary Peters

Neal is a product of GRPS and has worked for the district since the 1970s; she was named superintendent in 2012. She comes from a large family with deep roots in Grand Rapids. She earned an associate's degree from Grand Rapids Community College, a bachelor's degree from Grand Valley and a master's degree in educational leadership from Western Michigan University.

The Alumni Association will present its Distinguished Alumni Award to Angie Crouch, '88, an Emmy-award winning journalist for KNBC-TV in Los Angeles. The Outstanding Educator Award will be presented to Barbara Hooper, assistant professor in the Kirkhof College of Nursing, who joined KCON in 2008 after 16 years of working in nursing and management in Detroit. 

Teresa Weatherall Neal

Teresa Weatherall Neal

Robert Hooker, Judith Hooker (posthumously), Allen Hunting, and Donnalee Holton will receive honorary degrees. Robert Hooker is retired president and CEO of Mazda Great Lakes and current director of the Grand Valley University Foundation. Robert's wife, Judith, was a teacher, trustee for Grand Valley's Board of Trustees and director of the Grand Valley University Foundation. Hunting is among the founders of Grand Valley. He led Stow and Davis Furniture Company for 30 years and was a director of the Grand Valley University Foundation. Holton is a former member of the university's Board of Trustees and an advocate for education, health care and the arts. 

Ceremonies will be webcast live at

Page last modified April 20, 2018