Trustees appoint university's fifth president, first woman

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Grand Valley’s Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Philomena V. Mantella as the university’s fifth president. Trustees voted unanimously to appoint her to the presidency at a special board meeting held in the Kirkhof Center January 22.

Mantella is currently the senior vice president and chief executive officer of the Lifelong Learning Network at Northeastern University, a private research university in Boston. She has a Ph.D. in college and university administration from Michigan State University and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in social work from Syracuse University.

Studio portrait of Mantella
Mantella and her husband at the board meeting

Robert H. Avery, Mantella's husband, is seated next to her. (Amanda Pitts)

Former Board Chair John Kennedy chaired the search advisory committee for the replacement of retiring President Thomas J. Haas. Kennedy said the trustees recognized the importance of the search process in fulfilling their responsibility in selecting Mantella, who begins her tenure on July 1.

“We had a strong pool of candidates we considered, and we want to thank and congratulate the members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee for their dedication and judgment,” Kennedy said. “Many university community members shared their hopes for a new leader, and we are confident that Philomena Mantella will be an outstanding president.”

“Grand Valley is well positioned to extend its prominence, access and impact throughout the state and beyond. I am honored and thrilled to serve as president during this exciting next chapter in Grand Valley’s journey.”

Philomena V. Mantella
Mantella and T Haas take a selfie

Mantella and President Thomas J. Haas smile for a selfie (Valerie Wojciechowski)

Board Chair Mary Kramer said: “This was a unanimous vote because the trustees saw a finalist with experience in key areas, from enrollment management and student life to an entrepreneurial approach to building lifelong learning opportunities. Dr. Mantella has the right combination of experience in higher education and will shape a strategic vision to lead Grand Valley in the years ahead.”

The 18-member advisory committee was made of up of trustees, faculty, staff members, an alumnus and representatives from the student body and community. In addition to Kennedy, the board was represented by trustees Kramer, Megan Sall and Kate Pew Wolters.

The trustees recognize Mantella’s strengths and experience in strategic planning, global market expansion and in the evolving ways successful institutions are delivering education. Mantella said she recognizes Grand Valley’s current success and promising future.

“I am impressed and energized by the strength of Grand Valley,” Mantella said. “I’m also inspired by the opportunities it has in today’s educational and economic landscape. Michigan and our nation need breakout universities like Grand Valley that carry the promise of a degree and a path to prosperity for learners from all backgrounds.

“West Michigan is a dynamic region, and Grand Valley is well positioned to extend its prominence, access and impact throughout the state and beyond. I am honored and thrilled to serve as president during this exciting next chapter in Grand Valley’s journey.”

Haas said trustees made a wise choice. “Her background is impressive, and her passion for education and her warmth as a person are obvious. I look forward to working with her and others to ensure a smooth transition to her leadership,” he said.

Mantella speaks into a microphone surrounded by reporters

West Michigan media members surround Mantella after the announcement of her appointment January 22. (Amanda Pitts)

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