Beachnau, 'Mayor of Grand Valley,' will retire after 42 years

June 11, 2024 (Volume 47, Number 19)
Article by Michele Coffill

It's a question Andy Beachnau often poses to students: "When did you know you were a Laker?"

For Beachnau, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, the answer is 1983, one year after arriving at Grand Valley to work as a residence hall director (in Robinson Living Center). 

"I remember going to my parents' house for a weekend and then telling them, 'I have to go home,' and I meant to Grand Valley," Beachnau said.

Known by many as the "Mayor of GVSU," Beachnau will retire at the end of June, ending a 42-year career at the university. He has served many roles in Housing and Residence Life, including as director, overseeing housing and health services. He moved into leadership roles in the Division of Student Affairs in 2011.

While some people may view Beachnau's tenure as a lengthy stop at one institution, he sees it as shorter stints at several different Grand Valleys.

When Beachnau started working at GVSU, there was an enrollment of 6,000 and 1,000 students lived on campus. Now, 6,000 students live on campuses in Allendale and Grand Rapids.

"So, it's quadrupled since I've been here," he said. "Each president brought different strengths and I'm happy to say I've worked well with all of them."

Beachnau is proud of having a hand in designing living centers as communities and comfortable spaces for students, which, he said, plays a role in helping them thrive on campus. His favorites: Niemeyer and Holton-Hooker. 

He's also proud of mentoring many staff members, most of whom started working at Grand Valley early in their careers in housing and have continued in roles elsewhere at the university.

"I look at them as future leaders. And I say whatever their next job is, it will be easier. These are staff members who have dealt with people, programming, budgets and facilities," he said. "I consider it my responsibility to provide them with a good foundation.

"I've been fortunate to be around good people who have responded to my invitation to 'do better.'"

Jenny Hall-Jones, vice president for Student Affairs, nominated Beachnau for emeritus status upon his retirement. Hall-Jones said Beachnau has greatly contributed to Grand Valley's ethos and culture, whether it's through mentoring students, being the biggest fan of Laker athletics or teaching graduate education classes. 

"His nickname on campus is the 'Mayor of GVSU,' reflecting his love for our entire campus, including neighboring partners, students, parents and his colleagues. Their noticeable respect for him is evident throughout our Laker community," Hall-Jones said.

Beachnau's retirement celebration is planned for June 24, 3:30-6 p.m., at the L. William Seidman Center, with remarks at 4 p.m. RSVP by sending an email to Robin Burris, [email protected], by June 15.

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This article was last edited on June 10, 2024 at 9:29 a.m.

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