Grand Valley celebrates Founders Day

Grand Valley President Thomas J. Haas welcomes founding families and other guests.
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Grand Valley President Thomas J. Haas welcomes founding families and other guests.
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Grand Valley launched a new annual tradition that celebrates the efforts of L. William “Bill” Seidman, recognized as the founder of Grand Valley, and nearly 300 community members who supported his vision.

The inaugural Founders Day event was held on the Allendale Campus October 10 to accommodate attendance by Seidman family members and other founding families. The celebration included the unveiling of an iconic outdoor statue of Bill Seidman near the Cook Carillon Tower. An annual celebration will be held each year on October 25, commemorating the date Seidman organized a group effort to raise the $1 million required to receive legislative support to build a four-year college in the Grand Rapids area.

In 1960, Grand Valley became Michigan’s 10th state-supported college. In 1963, Grand Valley State College enrolled its first 226 students, and has since become one of the nation’s most successful regional universities. The Founders Day tradition celebrates how vision and passion culminated in a tremendous philanthropic outpouring and the establishment of Grand Valley.

During the celebration, President Thomas J. Haas greeted and thanked members of Grand Valley’s founding families, and the first student to enroll at Grand Valley, Diane Paton. “We would not be here today without the vision and drive of Bill Seidman and the support he gathered,” said Haas. “Though his career included working for three presidents and serving as chairman of the FDIC, he once told me that Grand Valley was his proudest accomplishment.”

Tom Seidman, Bill’s son, also spoke, saying that his father was “just one guy” and that the efforts of all the founding families were just as important. He joked about the features required to be included in the artist’s statue of Bill Seidman, including a bicycle, since he rode one to work during his FDIC days in Washington, D.C. Also noted was his lopsided smile “that will forever look out over the campus.”

David Frey, son of Edward Frey, also a founding family member, introduced the artist J. Brett Grill, a Grand Rapids native, who created the larger than life-sized bronze of Seidman. Frey invited Grill to join members of the Seidman family, Paton and Student Senate President Ricardo Benavidez to unveil the statue to the gathering of several hundred people.

Grand Valley music faculty members Dale Schriemer and Min Jin sang “High Hopes,” the theme song the founders played as they traveled the region and asked for support from community organizations, area banks, businesses and labor unions, as well as individuals who gave a “buck a brick” to help transform Seidman’s idea into reality.

Cake was served on the Allendale, Pew Grand Rapids and Holland campuses as well as at Grand Valley centers in Muskegon and Traverse City.