The VanderVeens standing in front of some large trees

Building upon the foundation of Grand Valley

Donald '84 and Kathleen '88, '97 VanderVeen

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For Donald ’84 and Kathleen ’88, ’97 VanderVeen, giving back to their alma mater is about doing what they can for the university they love. Because Grand Valley made a difference in the VanderVeens’ lives, their hope is to continue to build on the university’s foundation of providing quality education for all students. That’s why they established the VanderVeen Ability Endowed Scholarship, which will provide financial assistance for students who have disabilities.

What inspired you to establish the VanderVeen Ability Endowed Scholarship?

Kathleen: We have supported GVSU for many years in many different ways. We have been a part of the campus community since the early ’80s. We wanted to create a legacy of sorts, and show our support for a population of students for whom we care deeply. The hope is to let future students with disabilities who grace our campuses know there are people at GVSU who care about them and their success.

Can you share how this scholarship will help GVSU students?

Kathleen: Ideally, it will fill in gaps from other aid, or inspire students who need a little extra push to the graduation finish line.

Why did you choose to attend Grand Valley?

Don: I toured Grand Valley while I was in high school during a newspaper writing competition and just loved the campus. Plus, I attended a couple of great concerts at the former Dome. It was the most happening place in West Michigan at the time, and remains that way today.

Kathleen, you are an alumna and a Grand Valley employee. What are your responsibilities at the university?

This marks my 30th year working for GVSU. In my current role in the Division of Inclusion and Equity, I serve as the senior equity officer. I have the privilege to advocate in many areas of the university for social justice. I also coordinate compliance functions such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the AAEEO Office. I monitor the climate of GVSU by regularly surveying the campus community and gathering data to make recommendations to senior leadership toward improving the campus climate for all members of the community.

Don, can you share a bit about your career and how Grand Valley helped to shape it?

I have been telling people’s stories in the print journalism profession for nearly 40 years. I had the pleasure to work for some of the largest dailies and some of the smallest newspapers in the state during that time, and have enjoyed every minute of it.

Grand Valley provided us with the tools for lifelong learning with strong programming and advising, internship connections and a network of successful, like-minded professionals.

Why did you decide to become Alumni Champions?

Kathleen: Showing young alumni how to give back to GVSU is important. If GVSU made a difference in their lives, it is an easy sell.

Why do you feel it is important to give financially to Grand Valley?

Kathleen: As a member of the GVSU community for more than three decades, I have witnessed its phenomenal growth as a student, staff member and alumna. It is important to continue building upon the foundation of providing strong, quality educational opportunities for all who choose to put in the time and hard work to fulfill their dreams and career goals.

What would you like fellow alumni to know about giving to scholarship funds?

Don: It takes heart, commitment and dedication to something you truly believe in. Some of us have more time, some of us have more talent and some of us have more treasure, but together, we all have what it takes.

You have been part of the Grand Valley community for a long time. What are you most proud of as a Laker?

Don: I am amazed at how the campus has grown into an integral power player in the West Michigan community, and beyond, through giving, strategic planning and the successful transition of outstanding leadership. And, as a longtime sports writer, I am really impressed how the university has become a nationally recognized powerhouse in all sports with an ever-growing collection of national championship trophies from both the men’s and women’s programs.

The successful vision for success and generous giving of its early leaders paved the way for Grand Valley to grow into a nationally recognized leader in many areas of academia and athletics. 

Kathleen: I am most proud of my wonderful colleagues who have worked, and continue working, tirelessly to create the best atmosphere for our students and each other at Grand Valley. The university has grown tremendously over the years, but it has always maintained that personalized touch that makes GVSU so unique.

It is my hope that this scholarship will continue to build on that legacy.