Hauenstein Center Staff
Gleaves Whitney became the first full-time director of Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies in 2003. During his tenure, he has been the architect of hundreds of public programs, including numerous national conferences covered by C-SPAN and various internationally webcast debates — one watched on YouTube by nearly two million people in some 30 nations on all six inhabited continents. He has overseen the tremendous growth of the Hauenstein Center’s website, which has been visited more than 30 million times. He’s also premiered a popular web column called Ask Gleaves — the first presidential Q & A column in the nation — and created a leadership academy for students and young professionals committed to public service.
Under his direction, the Hauenstein Center’s Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy has emerged as a preeminent center of leadership excellence in the Midwest. Cook Leadership Fellows have been face-to-face with four U.S. presidents, three first ladies, two vice presidents, four secretaries of state, six state governors, numerous business and nonprofit executives, multiple Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, the world’s most decorated academic, a Grammy Award winner, and a national championship basketball coach.
“Gleaves Whitney is a real treasure for those of us who do presidential studies and work in the field of presidential history,” said award-winning biographer H. W. Brands. “He’s also one of the most effective entrepreneurs in the business of higher education. You can tell this by the growth of the Hauenstein Center over the years that he’s been the director.”
Philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum has called the Hauenstein Center’s Common Ground Initiative “an amazing experiment in civic and liberal education.”
“Gleaves Whitney and his energetic team at the Hauenstein Center have become, in a remarkably short time, a force to reckon with — and learn from — in the presidential studies field,” said historian Richard Norton Smith. “The Hauenstein Center is a jewel in the crown of Michigan.”
Prior to his arrival at Grand Valley, Gleaves worked 11 years in Michigan Governor John Engler’s administration, serving seriatim as senior writer, chief speechwriter, and historian. In 1993, the Governor assigned him to a task force that helped bring sweeping education and school finance reforms to Michigan that the New York Times called “the most dramatic in the nation.” In 2001 he helped the Governor establish Michigan’s Department of History, Arts, and Libraries. He also assisted the administration with higher education issues.
In addition to his public-sector service and work, Gleaves is a scholar who writes and lectures nationally on a variety of historical topics. He is author or editor of 15 books including most recently To Heal a Nation: The Story of Gerald R. Ford, and (with Mark Rozell) Testing the Limits: George W. Bush and the Imperial Presidency. Other books include Religion and the Presidency (3rd edition, with Mark Rozell), Religion and the Bush Presidency (also with Mark Rozell), American Presidents: Farewell Addresses to the Nation, 1796-2001; John Engler: The Man, the Leader & the Legacy; and 6 volumes of Messages of the Governors of Michigan. He even has co-authored a children’s book, B is for Buckaroo: A Cowboy Alphabet. Moreover, Gleaves has contributed chapters to more than a half-dozen books and written entries in two encyclopedias. Several of his talks have appeared on C-SPAN; his commentary has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, and journals; and he has been interviewed by, among others, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, FOX News, Newsweek, US News & World Report, and NPR and its affiliates.
Gleaves has also co-produced and contributed to several documentaries. In 2011 he partnered with M. W. Grass Strategic Communications and Meijer Inc. President Hendrik Meijer to produce a two-hour documentary on Arthur Vanderburg, Michigan’s famous senator, broadcast on PBS in December of that year.
Gleaves has won numerous awards and served on a variety of committees. In 2012-’13, he served as the principal investigator and hosted two programs funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to explore the historical roots of bipartisan leadership. In 2008, Gleaves and a Hauenstein Center team were awarded a Russell Mawby fellowship to examine the connection between philanthropy and the American presidency. In 2009, he was appointed by Michigan’s Governor to the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Committee, a two-year effort charged with helping the state celebrate our 16th president’s contributions to Michigan and the nation. In addition, Gleaves is a senior scholar for the Free Enterprise Institute and a Senior Contributor to "The Imaginative Conservative," both based in Houston, Texas; the first senior fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal in Mecosta, Michigan; a consultant to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California, and a member of the College of Fellows at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California. In 2016 he joined the Wyoming Catholic College Catholic Scholars Advisory Board, based in Lander; and in 2018 he was elected to the board of directors of Wyoming Catholic College.
While director of the Hauenstein Center, he was recognized by the Michigan Council for the Social Studies as an “outstanding mentor,” and was presented with its prestigious Mel Miller Mentoring Award for 2009. In 2010 he was inducted into the national leadership organization ODK (Omicron Delta Kappa). In 2011 he established the Gleaves Whitney Fellowship at the Hauenstein Center’s Cook Leadership Academy. In 1984 he received Colorado State University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Moreover, he has served on the boards of the Michigan Humanities Council, Arthur Vandenberg Memorial Committee, Michigan State Historical Records, and Historical Society for the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan. He has also cultivated many institutional partnerships — e.g., with the National Park Service, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Gerald R. Ford Foundation and Presidential Library and Museum, Russell Kirk Center — and numerous ongoing professional partnerships — e.g., with H. W. Brands, Richard Norton Smith, George Nash, and other historians of note.
Gleaves graduated with honors from Colorado State University (1980), was elected into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society (1980), and was a Fulbright scholar to then-West Germany (1984-85). His master’s degree and doctoral candidacy were earned at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he was a Richard M. Weaver fellow (1987-88) and an H. B. Earhart Fellow (1988-91). He has taught at the University of Michigan, Colorado State University, Droste-Hülshof Gymnasium, Aquinas College, and Grand Valley State University. In 2006, he received the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Graduate Theological Union’s Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California.
Gleaves was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and now makes his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Mary Eilleen.
Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies director Gleaves Whitney recalls the life and legacy of former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Gleaves on leadership
Brent Holmes joined the Hauenstein Center in March 2018 as the Assistant Director. Prior to joining the Hauenstein Center, he worked as a Student Support Specialist with Gaylord Community Schools.
Brent is a 2007 graduate of Davenport University with a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management. He is a U.S. Army veteran with 20+ years of leadership instruction and training, as well as recruitment experience with young adults. Brent is passionate about all the things that Ralph Hauenstein saw were necessary in the presidential studies center – most of all, the development of the leadership, talent, and capacity for service in the rising generation.
In his free time, Brent enjoys spending time with his family, watching college sports, and traveling with his wife, Julie.
Senior Program Manager, Cook Leadership Academy
Chadd Dowding joined the Hauenstein Center in August 2013 as the Program Manager for the Cook Leadership Academy (CLA). Prior to joining the Hauenstein Center, he worked as a Legal Contracts Associate and as a GE leadership program participant with GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Grand Rapids, and Boston.
Chadd is a 2011 graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Comparative Cultures and Politics, and specializations in Asian Studies and Political Economy. His area of study stems from an interest in understanding the international community and the unique challenges and opportunities of interacting in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. He has been to India, Thailand, Laos, and Haiti and enjoys the opportunity for a new adventure. Chadd is focused on developing strong relationships among the CLA fellows, and to encourage them to achieve their goals and chart their own leadership path with the support of the Academy and its mentors to benefit our local, national, and international communities.
In his free time, Chadd enjoys following current events and world affairs, serving on the GVSU LGBT Faculty/Staff Association Board, participating in the Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP), visiting Lake Michigan, spending time with friends, traveling, and building new relationships.
Scott St. Louis
Program Manager, Common Ground Initiative
Scott St. Louis joined the Hauenstein Center as Program Manager of the Common Ground Initiative in August 2016, after two years of involvement in the Cook Leadership Academy.
Scott graduated from Grand Valley State University summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and minors in political science and French. He completed the Honors program with distinction and served as Vice President for Educational Affairs on Student Senate. He has given dozens of individual and group presentations at the meetings of many academic associations, including the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and the Midwestern History Association. He is also is an alumnus of OpenCon 2014 and OpenCon 2015, two highly selective international conferences placing early-career professionals in the offices of the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, and other governmental organizations to raise awareness of Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data. Scott also contributed to the logistics of OpenCon 2016. His writings and translations have been published by such prestigious organizations as the National Museum of American History, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History, the Society of American Archivists, the American Numismatic Association, the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, and Pennsylvania State University.
Scott was named a recipient of the Glenn A. Niemeyer Award, Grand Valley’s highest academic honor, in April 2016.
As Program Manager of the Common Ground Initiative, Scott is helping to cultivate an open, respectful, and intellectually rigorous forum for thought leaders from the left and right to explore the possible common ground between their respective camps. The aim of the initiative: to promote common ground for the common good.
Rachel Florida is the Event Planner for the Hauenstein Center. She recently graduated from the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Hospitality and Tourism Management and a minor in Spanish.
As a student, Rachel worked in several offices at Grand Valley State University. She worked in University Communications, the Office of the President, and Legal, Compliance, and Risk Management. She has completed several internships for her degree at the J.W. Marriott and Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. While attending Grand Valley State University, Rachel was an active leader on the Well Program Team for Campus Ministry.
In her free time, Rachel enjoys spending time with her husband, hanging out with her friends and family, reading, traveling, and spending time outdoors.
Marketing and Communications Specialist
Khader Jabbar, the Hauenstein Center’s Marketing and Communications Specialist, is a Grand Valley graduate with a degree in international relations. Khader plans on getting an MA degree, in the field of political communication.
In keeping with the position of Marketing and Communications Specialist, Khader works to ensure that the events and messages of the Hauenstein Center are visible, documented, and engaging.
Khader enjoys digital trends, photography, reading and film.