President Haas remembers President Bush as a man of great character
Grand Valley State University President Thomas J. Haas joins the nation, in a personal way, in mourning the death of President George H.W. Bush. Haas recounted several meetings with the former president dating back to when Bush was vice president.
Haas shared photos as he remembered meeting Bush in 1981 when Haas and his wife, Marcia, volunteered to be social military aids and were assigned to then-Vice President Bush and his wife, Barbara, at the Inaugural Ball at the Kennedy Center.
“We found the Bushes to be delightful,” said Haas. “Marcia and I were young, and we felt they were like parents. They were simply wonderful.”
In a remarkable “circle-of-life” moment, Bush met Haas’ son Gregory in the mid-80s when Gregory was a little boy and then again in 2004 when he was a junior officer in the United States Coast Guard. The visits were separated by about 20 years, but the same feeling of warmth and care by Bush came through to the Haas family.
Haas and former President Bush were together again in the early 2000s when Haas was the chief academic officer at the Coast Guard Academy and they were honoring Bush with the Hedrick Fellowship.
“He wanted to engage with the cadets, which was a memorable moment in time for all of us,” Haas said. “I echo the many who are honoring this man and his example of leadership and dignity. We got to know him as a president, a person and as a man of great character.”
The Haases and the Bushes had one last meeting in 2010 when they gathered at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia to recognize singer Bono with the Liberty Medal.
Haas said he treasures the memories and the letter from President George H.W. Bush, and the photos that are in his office at Grand Valley. They commemorate the many touchpoints with the man who lies in state in the nation’s capital.