GVSU community remembers life of Bill Pickard, former board of trustee member

Leaders at Grand Valley and in West Michigan are celebrating the life of Detroit business entrepreneur William “Bill” Pickard, who died June 12. He was 83.

Pickard was a philanthropist who had an interest in education, entrepreneurship, diversity and inclusion. He was a long-time GVSU donor and former university Board of Trustees member, serving for 11 years from 1977-1989.

Bill Pickard stands with mask in hand while others are seated with masks on. GVSU vertical banner in background
William “Bill” Pickard greets participants at a GVSU Southeast Michigan Ambassadors event in Detroit in 2021.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

"Bill Pickard was a brilliant man whose love of learning has made a tremendous impact on GVSU and our students," said GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella. "Bill believed deeply in Grand Valley and personally committed his talent, time and treasure to assure we were lifting the Grand Valley opportunity to more individuals of great promise irrespective of their means. He called us to break down barriers to higher education and called others to assist by ensuring GVSU had the network of support to amplify our impact and extend our reach. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Pickard was passionate about supporting business students and students of color, which led him to establish several scholarships and endowments at Grand Valley. In 2016, he created the Dr. William Pickard Business Scholarship to assist underrepresented students pursuing a degree in business. In 2022, he established the Dr. William F. Pickard Pathway to Education Fund and the Lubbers and Pickard Endowment. These gifts work together to provide ongoing support for students who are part of the HBCU/HSI Pipeline Consortium and students from Genesee, Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Bill Pickard seated in front and rows of students listening in the Multicultural Affairs office
Bill Pickard visits GVSU in 2016 and speaks with students in the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Bill Pickard seated at a table while five people crowd around him; man at left shakes Bill's hand
Bill Pickard received the Grand Valley University Foundation Enrichment Award in 2022 for his community philanthropy and commitment to Grand Valley. At left is Don Williams, dean emeritus of Minority Affairs.

B. Donta Truss, vice president for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, said Pickard consistently put Grand Valley in the spotlight, especially in the Detroit area. Pickard was the catalyst behind establishing GVSU’s Southeast Michigan Ambassadors program.

“Bill Pickard was a legend in the Detroit area," Truss said. "He attended another university but always said he learned about business from Grand Valley. We are grateful for his enthusiastic support for our students and for our university. He will very much be missed.”

In academic regalia, Bill Pickard stands at podium during a commencement ceremony.
Bill Pickard received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Grand Valley in 1991.

A business and civic leader in the Detroit area, Pickard was executive chair and founder of GAA Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management and GAA New Ventures, co-managing partner of MGM Grand Detroit Casino, CEO of Bearwood Management McDonald's, and co-owner of five black-owned newspapers. He served on numerous boards, including Michigan National Bank, National Urban League, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and National Park Foundation.

Pickard served on the Grand Valley University Foundation from 1982-1984. In 1991, he received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Grand Valley. Pickard also earned the Grand Valley University Foundation Enrichment Award in 2022 for his community philanthropy and commitment to Grand Valley.

Mary Ouellette is the director of donor relations for University Development.


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