GVSU at 60: Now retired, Stoll served as common thread for students for nearly 40 years

Bob Stoll holds a license plate with GVSU on it, a GVSU specialized plate
Bob Stoll holds a GVSU license plate in the Alumni House. The former associate dean and director of student life retired after 38 years.
Image Credit: University Communications

January and the start of the winter semester will be the first time in nearly 38 years Bob Stoll is not on campus.

Stoll served as associate dean and director of student life until his retirement in August. 

There have certainly been significant retirements across the university this year. Like other faculty and staff members with lengthy tenures, Stoll's career at Grand Valley spanned more than half of the university's history. Grand Valley celebrates its 60th anniversary this academic year with recognition planned through April. 

Stoll served under four university presidents; when he was hired in 1983, enrollment was 6,710. In previous interviews, Stoll said the student experience in the early '80s was mostly to come to campus for class then leave. View photos and a timeline of GVSU's 60 years.

Enrollment grew, as did the university's physical space, activities for students and athletic programs. The Office of Student Life, under Stoll's leadership, expanded to oversee club sports, Student Senate, Greek life, student organizations and more. While campus activities certainly looked different this year for the 23,350 students enrolled, they could choose to participate in any of the more than 400 student organizations.

people seated at table, early 1980s
Bob Stoll retired after 38 years of working at Grand Valley and leading the Office of Student Life.
University Archives
President Emeritus Thomas J. Haas and Bob Stoll at a 2017 commencement.
President Emeritus Thomas J. Haas and Stoll are pictured at a 2017 commencement ceremony.
Amanda Pitts

Andy Beachnau, associate vice provost for Student Affairs, said Stoll served as the common thread for many students. 

"Often Bob was the first person you see when you arrive on campus during orientation and the last person you see when you leave GVSU at commencement," Beachnau said. "Bob has led the student experience for almost four decades by providing programs, events, and activities that matter to Lakers."

Chris Barbee, director of Alumni Relations, said recently he talked to a graduate who asked him to pass her contact information to Stoll, adding it was Stoll who introduced her to her future spouse.

"The phone call ended with her saying, 'We just want to connect with him. We’ve been married for 30 years and we have Bob to thank for that,'" Barbee said. "Whether it’s introducing a future husband and wife or bringing different departments on campus to figure out the best process to move Grand Valley forward, Bob has been the ultimate unifier for Grand Valley. 

"He’s done it with compassion and grace and thousands of students have benefited from Bob’s lessons of life."