Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct a factual error discovered after its original publication. GVSU hosted at least two officer commissioning ceremonies on campus in the past, including those of Lt. Timothy Murray and Lt. David Dobb in the early 2000s.
Army lieutenant gets commissioned on campus 'because I'm a Laker for a lifetime'
U.S. Army Lt. Jackson Wierenga became the first military officer to be commissioned on Grand Valley's campus in more than a decade on Dec. 9.
In a ceremony held at the Kirkhof Center attended by friends, family, President Philomena V. Mantella, and President Emeritus and retired Coast Guard Capt. Thomas J. Haas, among others, Wierenga was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the United States Army Quartermaster Corps.
Asked why he requested the ceremony take place in Allendale, Wierenga didn’t hesitate:
“Because I’m a Laker for a lifetime,” he said after the ceremony. “I love my school. I wouldn’t want it to be any other place. I met my wife in the ROTC program here.”
Wierenga said he appreciates that it took a lot of support and coordination between his military commanders and Grand Valley to make the special event happen, but that’s a reflection of the growing cooperation among Grand Valley, Western Michigan University (where Wierenga’s Army’s ROTC program is based) and the military.
Commissioning ceremony for Lt. Jackson Wierenga
It’s been a busy semester for Wierenga, a history-teaching major (political science minor) from Grand Rapids.
He married his college sweetheart, Arica (Swift), who graduated from Grand Valley in April.
He completed his training in WMU’s Army ROTC program.
And, on Dec. 10, he will walk across the stage at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids to receive a bachelor’s degree..
Mantella lauded Jackson and Arica’s commitments to service to their country and remarked on the special occasion of having the first commissioning ceremony on campus.
“You have walked a tougher path than many of your peers and you have more sacrifice ahead,” Mantella said. “You know your education has prepared you well for your journey and on behalf of the entire Laker community, I’m here to say we are so proud of you.”
The event was a sign of the university’s commitment to be a world-class home for members of the military, veterans and their families, said Jill Hinton Wolfe, military and veterans resource manager for Grand Valley.
“It was a very big and historic deal that Jackson decided to hold his commissioning ceremony at GVSU,” Hinton Wolfe said. “Today marks a major milestone in his life, one that took a lot of hard work and commitment, and we’re so happy he chose to honor and celebrate it on Grand Valley’s campus.”