Grand Valley mourns death of one of its founders

man standing for portrait
Richard Kaufman, long-time supporter of Grand Valley, died November 27 at age 91.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

Grand Valley mourns the death of Richard Kaufman, one of the university’s founders and long-time supporter, who died November 27 at age 91.

Richard (Dick) and his wife, Sylvia, wanted to promote a vibrant and diverse community for all generations, and promote interfaith understanding and acceptance. With their support, the Kaufman Interfaith Institute was created at Grand Valley in 2007, following two decades of work by the Kaufmans developing interfaith programs in Muskegon and around the world. 

In November, university leaders announced an additional major gift from the couple to endow the Sylvia and Richard Kaufman Interfaith Directorship in perpetuity.

“Dick’s legacy will live on in the work being done at the Kaufman Institute,” said Douglas Kindschi, director of the Kaufman Institute. “The vision of Dick and Sylvia motivates us each day to pursue dialogue and service, and we will continue to work toward understanding and acceptance for all.”

Education was also important to Dick, who grew up in Detroit and graduated from Yale and Harvard Business School. Later, he earned a master's degree in divinity from the University of Chicago, and, at the time of his death, was on the verge of earning a doctoral degree from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Dick lived in Muskegon for most of his life, and recently in Chicago, Illinois, and Aspen, Colorado.

“Dick was a great friend to Grand Valley from the very beginning, working with Bill Seidman to help launch our university,” said President Thomas J. Haas. “As a lifelong learner and champion of inclusion and equity, he became a role model for our students and our community. He will be deeply missed.”

Dick was chair of Amstore Corporation, the business his family helped establish. Amstore is a 100-year old West Michigan supplier of store equipment to leading American retailers.

An international philanthropist, Dick served in leadership positions on the board for the Shalom Hartman Institute in Israel, and was active in the national Interfaith Youth Core. The Kaufman Foundation actively supports education, museums, the arts, Jewish agencies, and interfaith efforts around the world.

For more information about the Kaufman Institute, visit