Donors celebrate Grand Valley's new library

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Mary Idema Pew Library Dedication Ceremony
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The formal dedication of the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons, September 3 at Grand Valley State University’s Allendale Campus, was attended by many of the 1,400 donors who helped to raise more than $20 million for the $65 million library. Since the start of construction in May 2011, there has been much anticipation for its completion.(

President Thomas J. Haas, in the opening remarks, welcomed and recognized many in attendance, including all who worked on the vision and completion of the facility he said was one of the most far-reaching projects in Grand Valley’s history.

“One of the reasons we are receiving national attention is because of the way this library will change the way students learn and apply what they learn,” said Haas. “We will be recipients of that knowledge and students will change us in the next century.”

The new library is named after Mary Idema Pew, who was a trailblazer with a lifelong passion for education. Her late husband, Robert C. Pew, one of Grand Valley’s founders and an early Board of Control member, generously provided the lead gift that was the catalyst for this project. Their daughter, Kate Pew Wolters, currently serves on Grand Valley’s Board of Trustees.(At the dedication she talked about how, during her first tour of the completed library, she had to keep her jaw from dropping and repeatedly saying “oh wow!”

“As proud as I am to still be a trustee here while this library was built in my mother’s name, I’m reminded about what my father said to me on the groundbreaking day, ‘remember it’s not about us, it’s about Grand Valley and supporting the school it’s become,’” said Pew Wolters. “I’ll agree, but I also think it’s about my mom and dad and the legacy they leave.”

Provost Gayle R. Davis introduced the library dean by saying how the library’s educational potential is unmatched in the nation. “Ever since we began to dream of this new educational commons, we knew it would require a leap of faith because it advanced the traditional concept of a library so far,” said Davis. “Grand Valley is a place where meaningful, innovative ventures are possible.”

University Library Dean Lee Van Orsdel was honored with a special plaque that recognizes her visionary leadership and will be installed within the library. The dean spoke about the many visitors to the new library since it opened to students 10 weeks ago.

“Librarians from other universities across the state have said we have the best academic library in the country,” she said. “High school academic counselors have said we got it absolutely right. That our library is a world class facility that will attract gifted and affluent students to Grand Valley.” Van Orsdel said that national recognition is mounting because the facility is clearly about the students and how Grand Valley can help them build the skills they need to flourish while they’re here and long after they have gone out into the world to make it a better place.

Student Senate President Ricky Benavidez also work in the library’s Special Collections. On behalf of all Grand Valley students, he thanked donors for making the new library possible, not only for current students, but generations to come.

Lastly James and Donna Brooks spoke words of thanks to all donors who contributed the “Shaping Our Future” campaign for which they served as co-chairs, along with Daniel and Pamela DeVos. Fundraising for the new library was included in the campaign begun almost six years ago.

“What a fantastic facility, but even more exciting is what is going to happen inside,” said James Brooks. “People with different views of the world will come together and bring different ideas and new ways to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world.”

A Community Open House is planned for Saturday, September 7, from 1-5 p.m. This family-friendly event is open to the public and will include a technology showcase, refreshments, a jazz musician, magic shows, and a scavenger hunt in the library with prizes awarded at each station.