Campus News Fall 2017

Grand Valley mourns supporter Helen DeVos

Helen DeVos

Helen DeVos

The Grand Valley community mourned the death of Helen DeVos, one of the university’s most steadfast supporters. The wife of Amway co-founder Rich DeVos died October 18, at age 90.

Helen DeVos was a dedicated philanthropist whose lifetime of giving has made a significant impact on West Michigan and beyond. Her generosity and love for helping others have enhanced the community greatly, especially in the areas of education, music, the arts and health care.

Throughout her lifetime, Helen provided exceptional leadership and service to GVSU and the Grand Valley University Foundation, for which she most recently served as a member of the Advisory Cabinet.

“Helen had a deep passion for the transformative power of education,” said President Thomas J. Haas. “As a lifelong learner, she was a tremendous role model for our students and everyone she knew. We will miss her kind and generous support and guidance over the years, as well as her friendship.”

The couple had a long and steady relationship with the university that changed the future for students and for the region. In the 1990s, Helen and Rich were extremely active in helping to secure land and funding for the Grand Design 2000 Campaign, an effort that expanded the Grand Rapids Pew Campus. The university recognized their support with the naming of the Richard M. DeVos Center.

In 2000, Helen and Rich garnered the support of their friends and community and raised the funds necessary to construct the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences on the Medical Mile in downtown Grand Rapids.

Both Helen and her husband served as honorary co-chairs of the Shaping Our Future campaign, which helped expand scholarships for students, improve and expand Grand Valley’s facilities, strengthen key programs and provide much needed support to faculty. The DeVoses also made the lead gift to help build the L. William Seidman Center.

Grand Valley honored Helen with the naming of the Helen DeVos Presidential Scholarship, an award granted to students who show promise in music and the arts. The university also granted her an honorary degree in 2010. She was recognized as a Grand Steward of the university in 2011, and was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame with an Enrichment Award in 2014.

As a tribute to Helen, the carillon towers on the Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses had a blue “Laker Light” and the Grand Valley flag flew at half-staff.

Wall that heals

Dozens of area military veterans and law enforcement officials led by the Patriot Guard Riders escorted The Wall That Heals from the Allendale Campus to Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park September 20.

The Wall That Heals, a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., was on display at Fifth Third Ballpark September 21-24, as part of LZ Michigan, an event to remember, honor and celebrate veterans and their family members.

WGVU Public Media is a co-sponsor of LZ Michigan and helped bring The Wall That Heals to Grand Rapids.

veterans welcomed at Walls that Heal

Michael Walenta, WGVU Public Media general manager, welcomes veterans. photo by Bernadine Carey-Tucker

Walls that heal video

Campus celebrates expanded performing arts center

The Grand Valley community celebrated the formal dedication of the newly renovated and expanded Thomas J. and Marcia J. Haas Center for Performing Arts on August 25.

The two-story, 47,000-square-foot, $20 million addition includes the Linn Maxwell Keller Black Box Theatre, an expanded theater costume shop, new dressing rooms, two classrooms for costume design and fabrication, four music ensemble rooms and additional rehearsal spaces. A separate dedication of the Keller Theatre took place in October.

The renovated center is named in honor of President Thomas J. Haas and his wife, Marcia, to recognize their support for the programs housed in the center.

In an emotional speech at the dedication, Marcia expressed gratitude for the students involved in the arts and for the university.

“Arts of all kinds benefit people of all ages, and Tom and I have a very deep appreciation for the arts and we recognize how our lives have been enriched by all of the arts,” Marcia said. “Our Grand Valley family is so special and we are pleased to have this opportunity to give back.

Tom and Marcia Haas on stage

Marcia Haas addresses the audience in the newly dedicated Thomas J. and Marcia J. Haas Center for Performing Arts August 25. photo by Bernadine Carey-Tucker

Danny Phipps, chair of the Music, Theatre, and Dance Department, said the center represents a commitment to offering the best in the performing arts to the university community and beyond.

“Surrounding us today is tangible evidence of deep commitment and understanding from Grand Valley’s administration and donors of the essential nature of arts study to challenge our students to dream beyond the present and craft a better future,” said Phipps.

“Providing desperately needed production and performance space, this new facility will allow our growing programs to expand their positive impact on students.”

Anna Petrenko, a senior majoring in music education, told the crowd that the expansion is a testament to Grand Valley’s dedication to studies that impact people through dance, theater and music.

“In a nation where many arts programs are the first to be cut from a school’s budget, my heart swells with pride to have Grand Valley publicly display the importance of the arts on this campus,” Petrenko said.

dedication video

Podcasts highlight stories behind historic letters

During World War II, Detroit native Joseph Olexa fought in the Invasion of Normandy, the liberation of Belgium, the Battle of Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge as a member of the U.S. Army 26th Infantry Division.

Throughout his service, Olexa exchanged hundreds of letters with Agnes Van Der Weide, who would eventually become his sweetheart. The pair discussed popular culture of the 1940s, family, military life and their own developing relationship; Van Der Weide even moved to Grand Rapids during the course of the letters.

These letters were reenacted by Grand Valley students and dissected by University Libraries staff members Leigh Rupinski and Jacklyn Rander during the first season of a podcast, “To the Letter: A Podcast from Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives.”

Rupinski, archivist for public services and community engagement, said the episodic show was created to provide more exposure to the various historical collections owned by the university.

Convocation sends unified messages to students

Convocation speakers who welcomed first-year students to their new academic home gave unified messages of the importance of making connections, accepting challenges and stepping out of comfort zones.

Maria Cimitile addressed the audience gathered in the Fieldhouse on August 25 in her first formal role as provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs. She encouraged students to develop relationships with their professors, calling faculty members the “guides” who open the doors of learning.

“A liberal education is not something given to you, it’s earned,” Cimitile said. “The faculty will guide you to all that you know and demand that you push yourself.”

President Thomas J. Haas reminded the audience of the university’s values of integrity, scholarship and service. He encouraged students to develop a passion for lifelong learning, including learning from people  who represent different cultures or present different perspectives.

“Find someone who is different from you and they will enrich your life,” Haas said. “We must commit to respectfully listening to others’ opinions and then respectfully voicing our own.”

Two sisters, Briauna Taylor and Brittany Taylor, gave advice as successful alumni who have backgrounds in nursing, business, entrepreneurship and athletics. Briauna, who earned degrees in business and nursing, encouraged students to find their niches and step out of comfort zones. Doing so, she said, will broaden their perspectives and aid them after graduation.

Convocation, two women on stage

Alumnae Briauna Taylor and Brittany Taylor give advice to first-year students during the Convocation ceremony on August 25 in the Fieldhouse. photo by Valerie Wojciechowski

Stephen Glass, acting vice provost for Student Affairs and dean of students, asked students to reflect on their path to Grand Valley and remember challenges, opportunities and people who helped along the way.

“Now you are here and you have a new set of challenges,” Glass said. He encouraged students to persist, ask for help and say “yes” to new opportunities.

convocation video

Engineering students build upgrades for Grand Haven fountain

Performances at Grand Haven’s well-known musical fountain now feature new moving water formations thanks to upgrades developed by Grand Valley engineering students. This summer, five students completed their senior project by designing and constructing two new water features.

The fountain now includes helix and wave-shaped water formations, in addition to its two original features — back and forth sweeps and up and down movements. The new features debuted at the fountain’s last show of the season on September 16.

Terry Stevens, affiliate professor of engineering, said water features have not been updated since the fountain was installed in 1963. “The water formations have been the same for 53 years, so the  city wanted to see something new,” he said. Stevens is a member of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain Committee and installed the fountain’s initial industrial control system in 1983.

The project began in January. Students spent the winter semester researching and designing the features; they built, tested and installed the new equipment during the spring and summer semesters.

The group started with prototypes, then custom built a second design that involved many pieces that had to be installed on the fountain. The wave feature includes 50 nozzles, for example.

students work on fountain

Engineering students developed upgrades for the Grand Haven musical fountain. photo by Megan Dunn

Page last modified November 16, 2017