Donor Impact Winter 2014

New faculty chair cements Johnson Center as national leader

Dorothy Johnson

Dorothy A. Johnson, namesake of the Johnson Center

A substantial gift from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Kellogg Company 25-Year Employees Fund has helped establish a unique endowed chair position at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

The first-of-its-kind in the nation, the chair will focus on leading the country in developing research on community philanthropy.

"The future of community philanthropy is an important field of study, and the Johnson Center is on the cutting-edge of this invigorating, exciting field," said George Grant Jr., dean of the College of Community and Public Service.

The chair, established with Kellogg's gift of $1.5 million, will be dedicated to the study of how nonprofits, for-profits, foundations, government, organizations and individuals take action to improve their communities.

The Johnson Center, one of the nation's largest university-based philanthropic centers, has been investigating the possibility of a community philanthropy chair for years. The position was established in August.

The gift from Kellogg does more than support the organizations goals. Grant said it serves as a vote of confidence in Grand Valley and in the Johnson Centers work. "There's a very good history and partnership between the Kellogg Foundation and the Johnson Center," Grant said. "Their gift shows the faith they have in Grand Valley and in the center."

Solving community problems

When the faculty chair is selected, that person will lead the Johnson Centers research of policies, trends and best practices in community philanthropy. The chair will also teach students about philanthropy, mentor graduate assistants, and give local and national presentations on community philanthropy.

"The Johnson Center has become nationally recognized for its work in community and family philanthropy, which is so important to the future of this country," said Dorothy A. Johnson, namesake of the Johnson Center. "I am proud to be associated with such a fine faculty and such dedicated and passionate students who are going to make a tremendous difference in the world."

A national search will be conducted for the Kellogg chair, and the Johnson Center expects to fill the position with someone who is a national thought leader on community philanthropy.

"The chairs work will meet pressing needs for knowledge and information that people and organizations need to succeed. Once we understand the systems and problems of a community, we will be able to support them with what they are trying to do," Grant said.

Addressing problems that people or communities face is an enormous task. Grant said the Johnson Center can start to provide solutions with this support from Kellogg.

"This is who Kellogg is," Grant said. "They are all about children, families, communities and ways of impacting those children, families and communities."

Expanding national impact

Johnson Center workshop

Pictured are community leaders at a presentation by Rapid Growth held at the Johnson Center.

The Kellogg chair, coupled with an increased emphasis on community philanthropy, will also further the Johnson Center's positive impact on community organizations in West Michigan and around the country. The Johnson Centers expertise in all areas of the nonprofit world is helping community foundations as far away as California.

"When we were looking for assistance with training and resources for our organization, it was critically important that my team of program directors have access to high quality training on best practices in grantmaking," said Sandra Nathan, vice president of programs and loans at the Marin Community Foundation, based in a city north of San Francisco. "The Johnson Center provided that. As a learning organization, we are well on our way to incorporating some of those best practices. The faculty and materials provided us with valuable insight and information."

The Johnson Center is also making a profound impact locally with organizations like Kids Food Basket in Grand Rapids. Since 2005, Kids Food Basket has used Johnson Center resources, including the Nonprofit Services program, seminars and workshops and professional development.

The Johnson Center provides a place, space and resources to build stronger organizations and a stronger community, said Bridget Clark Whitney, Kids Food Basket executive director. Not many communities have these resources. The Johnson Center is a testament to this region and its dedication to economic development.

Through the generosity of donors, Grand Valley has been able to endow six faculty chairs, ranging in focus from engineering to art.

To learn more about endowed faculty chairs, contact University Development at (616) 331-6000 or [email protected]

Giving Matters

Seeking Common Ground

The Common Ground Initiative at the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies challenges students, faculty and staff members and the public to find the roots that connect the two major political parties while exploring the challenges Americans face today.

A revolutionary concept in higher education, Common Ground uses open and respectful talks, roundtables and debates to explore what it means to be conservative or progressive in the 21st century. The initiative provides understanding and skills that students need, and is one way that the Hauenstein Center is raising a new generation of ethical and effective leaders dedicated to public service. For more information, or to learn about upcoming events, visit

Ralph W. Hauenstein, the center's namesake, gave another gift to the center in December, enabling it to further its mission.

New giving opportunities

Gifts to Grand Valley build the excellence for which the university is often recognized. Giving to the university's annual projects is a new way to support the needs of students. The website features stories of student projects and funds that need assistance to reach their goals as well as information about the Grand Valley Fund.

Gifts to the Grand Valley Fund, which supports the university's areas of highest need, also make a tremendous difference at Grand Valley. Visit Giving Campaign Goals.

Seidman international study program grows

Global experiences are critical to the future of Grand Valleys international business students. Studying abroad teaches students cultural nuances in communication and negotiation and gives them experiences that help prepare them for careers.

Donors are supporting students by giving to the Seidman College of Business Study Abroad Scholarship Endowment. Gifts will help students gain the experience they need to succeed in the global business environment, and will help provide exceptional talent for Michigan's businesses. Give online at

Wesorick Center opportunity

The Bonnie Wesorick Center for Health Care Transformation collects, studies and promotes best practices in nursing and health care, transforming the way disciplines work together. Housed in the Kirkhof College of Nursing, the Wesorick Center also provides special opportunities for students, giving them the knowledge and experiences to be the next generation of health care leaders.

The Wesorick Center, a national leader in its field, is nearing the completion of its $1 million endowment campaign. Gifts to support the Wesorick Center can be made made online at For more information about the Wesorick Center, visit

Page last modified April 25, 2018