GVSU announces The Peter Secchia Military and Veterans Program

Student veterans on campus.
Student veterans participate in a Veterans Day hike on the Allendale Campus.
Image credit - Sarah Anderson

Active-duty military and veterans will receive enhanced support to pursue their educational goals at Grand Valley, thanks to a significant gift from the family of the late former ambassador to Italy, Peter F. Secchia.

The Peter Secchia Military and Veterans Program will expand student support and programming; provide career support, including the transition from military to civilian careers; and support the development of multifunctional spaces, including a presence in downtown Grand Rapids.

Peter F. Secchia
The late Peter F. Secchia.
Image credit - Courtesy photo

After his own military service, Secchia became a noted entrepreneur and philanthropist in Grand Rapids, and this latest gift will allow the university to further expand its programs for those who have served in uniform.

Charlie Secchia, Peter’s son, said: "Dad would have been very pleased that our family can support these men and women who have given so much for all of us. We are excited about Grand Valley’s plans for the future and excited to be a part of it.” 

Grand Valley will now be able to combine the majority of its resources for military and veterans into one comprehensive program that will optimize current offerings and help expand programming with new initiatives for veterans, including spouses and dependents, whether they are students or alumni.

“Because of the Secchia family, Grand Valley will be able to provide our military and veteran students with the additional support they need to accomplish their personal, educational and career goals,” said President Philomena V. Mantella. “We thank them for their generous support.”

2020 Veterans Day hike.
2020 Veterans Day hike on the Allendale Campus.
Image credit - Sarah Anderson

In November 2020, Mantella announced the GVSU Veteran Promise . This initiative, the first-of-its-kind in the nation, guarantees admission to Grand Valley for enlisted 2021 Michigan high school graduates.

Also in 2020, the university hired Jill Wolfe, an Army veteran and GVSU alumna, to serve as Grand Valley’s military and veterans resources manager. The position was created to support the more than 400 military or student veterans currently pursuing their degrees, as well as help hundreds more as they translate their military skills into careers as civilian leaders and entrepreneurs.

“We know nearly 200,000 service members become veterans each year and about 115,000 of those veterans are in a college classroom within seven months of separation from the military,” said Wolfe. “Grand Valley has a history of successful educational programs and support for student veterans and we will now be able to share these opportunities with many more, thanks to the Secchias.”

American flag and GVSU flag.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Peter Secchia, who died in 2020, was a longtime supporter of the university and served as director of the Grand Valley University Foundation for decades. He had a distinguished military career, including service during the Cold War. He was a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1956-1959, and was inducted into the Michigan Military and Veterans Hall of Honor.

Secchia was a distinguished businessman, community and political leader and prominent philanthropist. He was the CEO of Universal Forest Products in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the architect of its early growth and success. He was the friend and confidante of U.S. presidents, including Gerald R. Ford and George H. W. Bush. Secchia served as Ambassador to Italy from 1989-1993.

Grand Valley is the Midwest leader for veterans’ education with these unique initiatives and programs:

  • GVSU Veteran Promise ( gvsu.edu/vetpromise) guarantees admission to Grand Valley for enlisted 2021 Michigan high school graduates.
  • Student Veterans Network (gvsu.edu/veterans) provides support for veterans, active service members and dependents in successfully progressing to degree completion, and moving on to post-military careers.
  • TRIO Veterans Upward Bound program (gvsu.edu/vub) provides free academic support services to low-income veterans who want to complete degree programs.
  • Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) is a peer support program that connects incoming GVSU student veterans with other student veterans who are trained as Peer Advisors. These “mentors” help new students navigate college life, address challenges they may face, refer them to appropriate resources on and off campus and provide ongoing support.
  • Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab (gvsu.edu/mve) gives veterans and military families the skills, knowledge and opportunities they need to develop and launch a business.
  • Military Police Basic Training Program (gvsu.edu/cj/policeacademy) was created for military police veterans interested in transitioning to civilian policing. 

Grand Valley has a long-standing reputation as a world-class, military-and veteran-friendly university.

  • In U.S. News & World Report's 2021 Best Colleges rankings, Grand Valley is listed as a Best for Veterans among Midwest universities.
  • Grand Valley was named a Military Friendly School for 2020-2021 by Military Friendly.
  • In 2020, Grand Valley was named as a gold level "military friendly" university by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency for the fifth year.


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