President mantella at a podium

Mantella makes bold commitments at investiture

Two announced initiatives position Grand Valley as 'breakout university'

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Below is the abridged investiture address given by President Philomena V. Mantella on November 15 in the Fieldhouse Arena. Watch the entire ceremony online and see more photos at .

Let us acknowledge that on this occasion, as the saying goes, we stand on the shoulders of giants, with a mission of human empowerment. Let us embrace our obligation to shape the future for those who have entrusted it to us, and those who need us now. 

Time is the great equalizer, in that we don’t know how much we have to spend on the people and pursuits that mean the most to us. American author Annie Dillard reminds us, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.”

Let us value our time, and let us grasp the opportunity we have together to author Chapter Five at this remarkable university. Let those of us connected to this great place spend our days facing challenges by seizing opportunities, and confronting complacency by unleashing energy, urgency and passion for our cause.

Group of students sing at inauguration
Members of the student group Euphoria, with Joseph VanArendonk in front, perform 'Feeling Good.' (Kendra Stanley-Mills)
President Emeritus Haas hands a baton to President Mantella
President Emeritus Thomas J. Haas passes a baton to Mantella. (Valerie Wojciechowski)
Student speaks at a podium at inauguration
Kelly Dowker, executive vice president of Student Senate, gives greetings on behalf of students. (Valerie Wojciechowski)

What is our cause?

First it involves accepting the reality of fewer students in high school, fewer coming to college, and many more who need college but have not been privileged with opportunity or resources. They possess enormous gifts and potential that must be nourished.

We are challenged to address access and affordability in higher education, and to win over those who say a college degree does not have a return on the investment or an inherent value.

We must address the talent gap. Leaders in business and industry are looking to us to meet current and future needs. The majority of the workforce will require more knowledge and different skills than they possess today.

Four presidents of Grand Valley sit on the stage
Mantella looks down a row of former Grand Valley presidents, from left, Arend D. Lubbers, Mark A. Murray and Haas. (Kendra Stanley-Mills)
Shoes with the Circle G Grand Valley logo on them
Mantella wore shoes with GVSU flair. (Sarah Anderson)

We must embrace the opportunities technology brings. We are able to touch thousands of learners at all ages — those in front of us, and those around the globe.

Our cause is to build upon our history as a university created by this community in a private-public partnership that is unique and still thriving today.

Technology and creativity make it possible. The demographics and the economic realities make it mandatory. The time to act is now.

Our state and our nation need Grand Valley to seize the new reality that allows a university in Michigan to be a “breakout university” by asserting its entrepreneurial spirit, its history of being agile, fearlessly growing and changing to meet new demands, and being hungry to shape education to learning styles that are as numerous as individuals are different.

A fair question is: Are we ready? My answer is absolutely.

“First, we commit to evolve our liberal education foundation, adding essential digital and entrepreneurial capabilities to the time-honored skills of critical thinking, emotional intelligence and creativity.”

President Philomena V. Mantella
Students sing at inauguration
The gospel choir Voices of GVSU performs 'Blessing Me.' (Kendra Stanley-Mills)
Group of people applaud at Inauguration
Mantella's family, including her mother, Lucille, and husband, Robert H. Avery (far left). (Kendra Stanley-Mills)


I offer five commitments today on behalf of Grand Valley.

First, we commit to evolve our liberal education foundation, adding essential digital and entrepreneurial capabilities to the time-honored skills of critical thinking, emotional intelligence and creativity. 

Second, we commit to an unparalleled educational model that embraces the reciprocity of learning. The unique magic that occurs between teacher and student; the unique magic between people who share knowledge and ideas. Our faculty live this philosophy that can separate us from those for which “student-centered” is simply a tag line. 

Third, we commit to experiential learning. We want all students to be able to take part in internships, co-ops, service learning and to study abroad. To answer that demand, Grand Valley will build a talent epicenter that will attract companies, nonprofits, entrepreneurs and students. All who are eager to build and nurture explosive ideas and cultivate the talent to make dynamic growth possible. We envision a digital and physical space where the best employers will join with the best minds at Grand Valley.

Fourth, we commit to supporting more students at different stages of life, acknowledging their multiple roles and delivering when they want to learn, where they want to learn, and how they want to learn. This will require us to build a sophisticated infrastructure that leverages the power of place and the digital medium. 

Lastly, and most importantly we commit to our Lakers for a lifetime — to be not only your community, network and friends, but your learning partner. I am announcing today, for all Grand Valley State University students and alumni, a program that is an investment in your lifetime vibrancy, underscoring our firm commitment that lifelong learning is a necessity. We will invest in and build a Laker Lifetime Learning Account for our students upon graduation. This money will be available for Lakers to reduce costs and improve access to badges, certificates and advanced degrees at Grand Valley.

The promise of our future demands these changes, investments and our collective fortitude. The commitments I’ve outlined today will ready Grand Valley, and those who partner with us, to create and shape our future as a 21st century education leader.


Grand Valley has a mission to educate students to shape their lives, their professions, and their societies. It is a noble and grand mission, one that is timeless but one that must adjust to the needs of this century.

We must reimagine education to serve all who would benefit. We need educational trailblazers who will create possibilities to widen and broaden the university’s reach. We need educational entrepreneurs who smile with a knowing nod because they have experimented and won, or experimented and learned.

We will keep education affordable. Grand Valley remains an incredible value with tuition in the lower third of Michigan public universities and among the lowest in the nation. We will support students as they realize their dreams and build their futures over a lifetime. And all along the way we will enable opportunities for inclusive prosperity.

I pledge to you today that I will bring the best lessons of my life, the most beneficial experiences of my career, the totality of my passion for students and lifelong learning, and my full energy — further ignited by each of you — to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for this university community.

I ask that you join me with your best ideas, intentions, vision and resources to build our future. Together, we will reimagine education at Grand Valley: how it is accessed; how it is delivered; and how we keep Lakers learning for a lifetime.

It is my honor to serve as the fifth president of Grand Valley State University. And I am certain, we will “Reach Higher Together.”

Four headshots
Past presidents from left to right: Thomas J. Haas, Ph.D. President Emeritus 2006–2019, Mark A. Murray, M.L.I.R. 2001–2006, Arend D. Lubbers Litt.D., D.S., L.H.D. HonDUniv. President Emeritus 1969–2001, James H. Zumberge, Ph.D. 1962–1968, Deceased
Two people laugh in the library
Lynn 'Chick' Blue, vice president for Enrollment Development, laughs with President Mark A. Murray. (Amanda Pitts)
Alumni gather in the library
Alumni from all decades joined the procession; from left are Lupe Ramos-Montigny, Rose Zainea-Wieten, Bill Hardiman and James Moore. Moore was the first African American student to enroll at Grand Valley. (Kendra Stanley-Mills)
A procession of people
Felix Ngassa, chair of University Academic Senate, leads the processional to the Fieldhouse. (Amanda Pitts)
A procession of people
Alumni from all decades joined the procession. (Amanda Pitts)
Two people in the lilbrary
Left, President Emeritus Thomas J. Haas and President Emeritus Arend D. Lubbers; both are wearing stolls from Cracow University of Economics. (Kendra Stanley-Mills)
A line of people walk on campus by the clocktower
Students, faculty and staff members process to the Fieldhouse. (Rachael Mooney)

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