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3,200 students participate in commencement

  • President Haas and Marcia Haas walking down aisle at commencement.
  • man at podium
  • graduating student and family outside arena
  • woman at podium
  • woman with fist raised at podium
  • woman waving entering arena in graduation regalia
  • President Haas taking selfie on stage
  • woman in mortar board walking on stage

Posted on April 29, 2019

More than 3,200 students participated in three commencement ceremonies April 26-27 at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.

The afternoon ceremony on Saturday, April 27, was the final commencement for retiring President Thomas J. Haas. In a surprise honor for him, Provost Maria C. Cimitile called the president and his wife, Marcia Haas, to center stage, thanking them for making Grand Valley "the wonderful place it is."

"President and Mrs. Haas, over the past 13 years, you have been Grand Valley's first at the helm, our team captains and shining examples of how to be exceptional leaders," Cimitile said. "You made sure our university remained focused on students and their success. You leave us with a legacy of commitment to excellence and service."

Then the Haases and their family led the recessional out of the arena to shouts of "T-Haas" from graduates and audience members, and Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." Haas will retire on June 30.

Throughout three ceremonies, students and their families heard commencement addresses from community philanthropists Daniel and Pamella DeVos, University of Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly, and Michigan State Board of Education member Lupe Ramos-Montigny. (Links to all speeches are below.)

Honorary degrees were given to Joyce F. Hecht, who served as director of Grand Valley's University Development office; Edward J. Hanenburg, Grand Valley University Foundation director and longtime Coopersville resident; and Sylvia C. Kaufman, who, with her late husband, Richard, founded the Kaufman Interfaith Institute.

Shinian Wu, professor of English, received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Alumni Association. The Alumni Association presented its Distinguished Alumni Award to Dr. Mark Smith, ’91. Smith is senior vice president of medical affairs/chief medical officer of Henry Ford Allegiance Health, and CEO of the Henry Ford Allegiance Medical Group in Jackson. 

Graduating students Amy Harris, Natalie Loewengruber and Teresa Salas were selected to give remarks.

Commencement addresses:

• Daniel and Pamella DeVos

• Brian Kelly

• Lupe Ramos-Montigny