Alumni News Summer 2015

What's in a name?

Alumna steps back to remember history behind 'Grand Valley State'

by Abigayle Sloan, '07

Marianne (Lovins) Czechowskyj, ’75 and ’00, had high hopes as a 7-year-old in 1960. She wanted to be a teacher, and she wanted to live in Allendale.

“I grew up in Grandville, but I came to Allendale to visit my grandparents and always liked the country,” she said. “My mother did daycare and she would have 17 to 30 kids and ran it like a pre-school. I was around kids all my life and I was bossy.” Even as a first-grader, Czechowskyj said she had an imagination for what most could not see at the time, the growing potential among Allendale’s corn fields.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected president and Grand Rapids was about to undergo an urban revival. Meanwhile in West Michigan, talks of a new state college swirled and soon Czechowskyj’s mother got wind of a contest established by the new institution’s Board of Control, soliciting entries for an official college name.

With encouragement from their mother, Czechowskyj’s brother, 20-year-old Frederick H. Brack, submitted the name “Grand Valley State College.” Between November 1960 and January 1961, more than 2,500 proposals were submitted and some suggestions were rather unconventional: “Paradise Gates,” “Learning for Life College,” and “Vade Mecum,” which translated from Latin is “walk with me.”

Marianne (Lovins) Czechowskyj

Marianne (Lovins) Czechowskyj, ’75 and ’00, stands at the steps of Lake Michigan Hall, the first building she entered as Grand Valley's first scholarship recipient in 1971.
photo by Bernadine Carey-Tucker


Ultimately, the nine-member board, led by founder L. William Seidman, favored the more conservative name, “Grand Valley State College.” Brack’s name was drawn from a hat among four others who suggested the same. The reward was a four-year tuition scholarship to the new college.

Brack was finishing his senior year at Michigan State University, so his little sister seemed like a natural successor to the award. In 1961, before the college’s founders had even hired a president, Marianne Czechowskyj made history as Grand Valley State College’s first scholarship recipient. “A Grand Rapids Press photographer took the photo back and the editor said, ‘She’s too cute to go on the back page, she’s going right on the front page,'” Czechowskyj said.

“At 7 years old I liked the attention, and I was excited to be in the newspaper. I didn’t quite understand what the prize was.”

Once all the excitement passed, Czechowskyj said her family never received any official paperwork proving she was the recipient of a full ride scholarship. “No formal letter had ever arrived at our house about the scholarship, so when it came time for me to enter college, my mother went down to Grand Valley with the newspaper article and said, ‘Here, my daughter has this tuition scholarship,’ and Grand Valley was very nice and didn’t put up a fuss,” she said.

By the time Czechowskyj entered college in 1971, tuition had increased from $1,080 in 1963, to $1,824 a year. The $744 difference in tuition would equate to approximately $4,346 today, yet there was no question that Grand Valley would honor the promise it made 10 years earlier. “It was exciting to know that I had this free ride because my parents were around 40 years old when I was born, so by the time I got ready to go to college, my father was retired and living on Social Security,” she said. “It was a huge help to my family to not worry.”

“I’m very proud of the fact that Grand Valley is a first-class college with a hometown feel.” —  Marianne (Lovins) Czechowskyj, ’75 and ’00


Czechowskyj went on to build even stronger ties to Grand Valley. Her husband, Michael, proposed to her in a Grand Valley parking lot between classes on a lunch break. She received a bachelor’s degree in education in 1975 and a master’s degree in reading in 2000. Her husband received a degree in medical technology in 1976. The middle school sweethearts celebrated 39 years of marriage in May, and all three of their children attended Grand Valley. “I’m very proud of the fact that Grand Valley is a first-class college with a hometown feel,” she said.

Allendale has been Czechowskyj’s hometown for almost 40 years and she has been teaching at Springview Elementary School in Allendale for 18 years. She encourages all of her students to start imagining their future at a young age just as she did. “When I was little, there was a forgone conclusion that you are going to grow up and go to college, and my mother and father really put that in my family,” she said.

It has been 40 years since Czechowskyj graduated with her first degree from Grand Valley, and occasionally she will wander back to the Allendale Campus to walk the winding trails, appreciate the university’s evolution and reflect on her life’s journey as a Laker. “I’m just a normal person who got a scholarship,” Czechowskyj smiled. “I find this kind of surreal after all these years.”

Hand-me-downs from siblings are usually unwelcome when you are the youngest in a family of six. But every once in a while, something gets passed down that fits just right. Czechowskyj said she knows the education she received at Grand Valley is a hand-me-down that will never go out of style.


Watch a video

Acts of kindness spread Laker pride around world

The week of March 21-28 was a record-breaking one for the Community Outreach Week program.

Lakers and friends of the university living in West Michigan and around the world took time to complete nearly 3,700 hours of service in eight days. Across 20 states and four countries, volunteers helped however they could in the name of Grand Valley.

Individuals and groups helped with projects of their choice, ranging from outdoor spring cleaning activities to cooking meals for cancer patients and their families.

Volunteers in Jordan

Study abroad student David Leestma led recreational activities for Syrian Refugees in Jordan.

Volunteers at the Oakland Zoo

The San Francisco Bay Area Alumni Club volunteered at the Oakland Zoo, cutting grass to feed the animals.

Community Outreach Week is a partnership between the Community Service Learning Center and the Alumni Association, and encourages Lakers to set aside time to serve in whatever capacity is special to them.

Keep giving back Lakers, and save the date for Community Outreach Week 2016: March 19-26.

Alumni in South Bend

Alumni in the South Bend, Indiana, area spent a day working at La Casa de Amistad Youth & Community.

Alumna with dog and kids

Amy Harris, ’97, walked dogs at the Friendship Animal Protective League in Elyria, Ohio.

Alumni help in Detroit at Boll Family YMCA

The African American Alumni Chapter helped prepare for youth summer camp at the Boll Family YMCA in Detroit by creating a portable fire pit and seats.

KCON alumni bake cookies

The Kirkhof College of Nursing Alumni Chapter partnered with the GVSU Student Nurses' Association and baked cookies for patients at the Renucci House and Hope Lodge.

Watch a video

Alumni Association hits significant milestone

Trumpets sounded and commencement came to a halt on April 25 at the Van Andel Arena as the Alumni Association became 100,000 strong.

Dale Boedeker, ’15, stepped onto the stage as Grand Valley’s 100,000th graduate. “I thought it was a joke. I still can’t believe it,” said Boedeker. A $1,000 check was presented from President Thomas J. Haas and Boedeker also received a large gift basket from Michael Tappy, ’78, president of the Alumni Association. A native of the state of Wyoming, Boedeker plans to put his health communications degree to use in the West Michigan area.

Dale Boedeker and his family after graduation

photo by Rex Larsen
Dale Boedeker, ’15, celebrates outside the Van Andel Arena with his family after being named the 100,000th graduate during commencement.

Watch a video

Events in the Valley and beyond

Film and video alumni

The newly formed Film & Video Alumni Chapter held a well-attended reunion for alumni at the L. William Seidman Center on May 2. The event also celebrated the retirement of long-time professor Barbara Roos.

Washington DC alumni

The annual GVDC Club Alumni Reception took place in Washington, D.C., on May 21. The club’s new executive board was introduced and attendees heard updates from university leaders.

Holland alumni

Lakers on the Lakeshore toasted the spring season at the Holland Alumni Reception on May 21. Donations and a silent auction helped raise $1,500 for the Margaret “Peggy” Boyce Non-traditional Student Scholarship.


Volunteer celebration photo strip

The Alumni Association celebrated the heart and soul of its organization, the volunteers, on May 15 at the Eberhard Center. Tom, ’67, and Lea, ’69 & ’95, Ebels were also recognized as the 2015 Service Award recipients.

Alumni at beer tasting

Taste buds were put to the test at the MillerCoors beer and cheese pairing event held on April 23 at the Cheney Place in Grand Rapids. The Young Alumni Council hosted the event that also raised more than $1,300 for the Grand Valley Fund to support the areas of greatest need at the university.


Louie the Laker and runner

Despite rainy conditions, 71 Laker for a Lifetime Team members participated in the Fifth Third River Bank Run in downtown Grand Rapids on May 9. After the race at the Pew Grand Rapids Campus, the group celebrated its efforts in raising more than $5,000 for the Student Support Fund Scholarship.


Page last modified July 27, 2015