Q&A Spring 2016
He was the first African American at Grand Valley promoted to the rank of full professor and the first faculty member to obtain a Fulbright Award.
“My Fulbright professorship allowed me to teach educational psychology and special education at the University of Cape Coast. My tenure in Ghana led to the initiation of Grand Valley’s formal commitment in 1987 of a faculty exchange program.”
He was one of only 400 African Americans in the U.S. with a doctorate when he earned the degree in 1972 from the University of Illinois.
“That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? I received a personal letter from the president of the University of Illinois saying I was the seventh African American to earn a Ph.D. in any field at the institution.”
He had to fight to establish Grand Valley’s graduate program in teacher education in 1975.
“Some faculty feared change. President Arend D. Lubbers urged members of the Academic Senate to support it. They did, but wouldn’t approve funding. I wrote grants and received federal funding that permitted the Graduate School of Education to operate for two years without Grand Valley general fund support. We now have multiple graduate programs that are highly ranked in the state and country.
“As I look back over 43 years, it is just amazing that at the age of 29, President Lubbers had the faith in a young African American scholar to grant him the authority to initiate the funding and proposal development of a graduate program in teacher education.”
Mack’s father was a Tuskegee airman during World War II.
“My father, Col. Faite Mack, would tell stories about serving in Africa and Italy, but I was young at the time and didn’t realize the significance of his service. I have an extensive collection of Tuskegee airman materials, including photographs, letters and diaries. There are several personal letters to my mother.
“We had very important people coming to our home near Chicago. I just referred to them as my uncles — the other Tuskegee leaders and astronauts. It was a very racist time. Many believed African Americans didn’t have the cognitive ability to fly a plane. My dad faced a very difficult time. The army was segregated and here he was fighting for peace when we didn’t have it in the U.S. But my dad was very patriotic. He loved America and knew things would change. He believed in our Constitution — that it would help change the status of African Americans and all people. My family strongly pushed education. My dad used to say education is the one thing that can’t be taken away from you. My mother was a nurse practitioner. They both pushed me and my two brothers to pursue higher education.”
Carter G. Woodson is Mack’s great uncle.
“Woodson is the founder of Black History Month and was the second African American in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard.”
Faite Mack is pictured with students in the rural village of Thabo, Nong Khai Providence, Thailand, where he established funding for orphans to attend school.
Mack spends his summers in northern Thailand where he established funding for orphaned children to attend school.
“Fifteen years ago, I was invited to Thailand as the keynote speaker for a national conference in special education at Srinakharinwirot University. I was challenged by rural educators in Nong Khai Province to start a foundation in Thailand for the many orphaned and abandoned children who could not attend school. Working with five different schools, the foundation has supported nearly 600 children over the past 15 years by providing the resources required for school attendance — uniforms, books, school fees, transport and medical support. The foundation is fully recognized by the royal Thai government as a legitimate foundation that can work with the schools. That’s not easy to achieve.”
Why he stayed at Grand Valley.
“I had more flexibility here. I had offers, but this was home. I had unique opportunities to be creative here. We were growing so fast. We had amazing leadership and administrators who were open to new ideas. I’ve seen the university grow from 4,000 students to 25,000. I remember when we thought Grand Valley would be a great place if we ever got to 10,000 students. That would put us on the map.”