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GVSU appoints fifth president; first woman

  • The Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Philomena V. Mantella as the university's fifth president.
  • Mantella fields questions from the media following the Board of Trustees meeting.
  • Provost Maria Cimitile, left, and Philomena Mantella, right, sit next to each other at a faculty senate meeting.
  • Philomena Mantella meets with members of the University Academic Senate. The group is seated in a square around a series of tables in a nondescript room in the Kirkhof Center.
  • Philomena Mantella meets with student senators in the Kirkhof Center. She is seated to the left of Student Body President Rachel Jenkins.
  • Philomena Mantella poses for a photo with a group of student senators. The group is smiling and holding up their index and middle fingers near their thumbs in the 'Laker Up' gesture.
  • Philomena Mantella tours the offices of the student newspaper, The Lanthorn.
  • Philomena Mantella poses for a selfie with retiring GVSU President Tom Haas.

Posted on January 22, 2019

The Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Philomena V. Mantella as the university’s fifth president. The trustees voted unanimously to appoint her to the presidency at a special board meeting held on the Allendale Campus, January 22, 2019.

Mantella is currently the senior vice president and chief executive officer of the Lifelong Learning Network at Northeastern University, a private research university in Boston. She has a Ph.D. in college and university administration from Michigan State University and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in social work from Syracuse University.

Former Board Chair John Kennedy chaired the search advisory committee for the replacement of President Thomas J. Haas, who will retire June 30. Kennedy said the trustees recognized the importance of the search process in fulfilling their responsibility in selecting Mantella. 

“We had a strong pool of candidates we considered, and we want to thank and congratulate the members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee for their dedication and judgment,” Kennedy said. “Many university community members shared their hopes for a new leader, and we are confident that Philomena Mantella will be an outstanding president.”

Board Chair Mary Kramer said: “This was a unanimous vote because the trustees saw a finalist with experience in key areas, from enrollment management and student life to an entrepreneurial approach to building lifelong learning opportunities. Dr. Mantella has the right combination of experience in higher education and will shape a strategic vision to lead Grand Valley in the years ahead.”

The 18-member advisory committee was made of up of trustees, faculty, staff members, an alumnus and a representative from the community. In addition to Kennedy, the board was represented by trustees Kramer, Megan Sall and Kate Pew Wolters.

The trustees recognize Mantella’s strengths and experience in strategic planning, global market expansion and in the evolving ways successful institutions are delivering education. Mantella recognizes Grand Valley’s current success and promising future.

“I am impressed and energized by the strength of Grand Valley State University,” Mantella said. “I’m also inspired by the opportunities it has in today’s educational and economic landscape. Michigan and our nation need breakout universities like Grand Valley that carry the promise of a degree and a path to prosperity for learners from all backgrounds. West Michigan is a dynamic region, and Grand Valley is well positioned to extend its prominence, access and impact throughout the state and beyond. I am honored and thrilled to serve as president during this exciting next chapter in Grand Valley’s journey.”

Mantella’s appointment has been well received by the two living former presidents of Grand Valley and current president, Haas.

“The trustees have made a wise choice in their selection of Dr. Mantella,” Haas said. “Her background is impressive, and her passion for education and her warmth as a person are obvious. I look forward to working with her and others to ensure a smooth transition to her leadership.”

President Emeritus Arend (Don) Lubbers, who was president of Grand Valley for 32 years, said: “I am favorably impressed by Dr. Mantella’s accomplishments as a university administrator in fields that will be required for success in the next decades. The Presidential Search Advisory Committee knew what it was looking for and found the right person. I join the Grand Valley and West Michigan communities in welcoming her and wishing her a long and happy tenure as president of Grand Valley.”

Former President Mark A. Murray, who preceded Haas, said: “Grand Valley is a remarkable institution. Dr. Mantella is a remarkable talent. Her experience touches key aspects of a successful university, and I’m confident that in partnership with the Grand Valley community, she will add important accomplishments to her predecessors’ successes for the good of the university, its students and the region.”

Mantella is the fifth president and the first woman appointed president in Grand Valley’s nearly 60-year history. She will remain at Northeastern University through the academic year and begin work at Grand Valley when Haas’ retirement takes effect July 1, 2019. She has been married for 40 years to attorney Robert H. Avery, and has three sons and four grandchildren. Mantella’s 91-year old mother will be joining the couple in West Michigan.

Grand Valley State University, one of the 100 largest universities in the nation, attracts nearly 25,000 students with high-quality programs and state-of-the-art facilities. Grand Valley is a comprehensive university, serving students from all 83 Michigan counties and dozens of other states and foreign countries. Grand Valley offers 90 undergraduate and 41 graduate degree programs from campuses in Allendale, Grand Rapids and Holland, and from centers in Muskegon, Traverse City and Detroit. The university is dedicated to individual student achievement, going beyond the traditional classroom experience, with research opportunities and business partnerships.

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