Study by Dr. John Russell, commissioned by Michigan legislature, determines need for a new four-year college in Grand Rapids area—the first in 60 years independent of existing institution.

October 25
L. William Seidman creates Committee to Establish a Four-Year College (CEFYC) to study Russell Report, obtain legislative support, and begin process of planning and promoting a four-year institution.

For more information about the founding of Grand Valley, visit the narrative history, Section One, Part I, "High Hopes."


The Grand Rapids Foundation funds a more detailed study by John X. Jamrich. "A New College: A Report to the Legislative and Citizens Committees on the Eight County Study of Higher Education Needs in Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, and Ottawa Counties," published on November 30.


April 26
Public Act 120 of the 70th Legislature of the State of Michigan, Regular Session 1960 (House Bill No. 477), to establish and regulate a state institution of higher learning, is signed into law.

A Million Dollar Fund Drive set up to raise private money required by legislation. $350,000 raised for purchase of campus site and over $1,000,000 for building program from over 5,000 individuals, organizations, and businesses in eight-county area.

College Naming Contest draws 2500 submissions. Several suggest Grand Valley State College; drawing held in March 1961 from those entries for prize of four-year tuition scholarship. Winner gives scholarship to his 7-year-old sister.

Thirty-six member Site Committee forms to evaluate locations for new college in one of the eight counties of the area: Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo and Ottawa. By March 10, 1961, 20 sites are under consideration.

Grand Valley College Board of Control sworn in and holds first meeting in office of Governor G. Mennen Williams.

Citizen’s Advisory Council is created to involve community in establishment of college.


University of Michigan, Michigan State, Wayne State, Western Michigan, and Grand Rapids Junior College provide assistance for development and planning.

April 8
Board of Control selects 876-acre site bordered by Grand River in Allendale, Michigan in Ottawa County. 10-year master plan for campus developed, architects hired.

June 26
Governor Swainson signs higher education appropriations act providing $150,000 for Grand Valley operations funding for fiscal year 1961-62.


Administrative offices moved from Randall House in Grand Rapids to remodeled farmhouse on new campus.

February 9
Dr. James H. Zumberge, professor of geology at University of Michigan, appointed first president of Grand Valley State College.

August 28
Groundbreaking for college’s first academic buildings.

First library set up in The Pink House, a small residence and garage, to prepare for new library planned for second floor of Lake Superior Hall. First acquisition of literature and rare books for the library.

First prize awarded to anonymous contestant among 60 submissions for design of college seal.

First catalog describing educational program printed.

First students accepted to start as freshmen in 1963.

First faculty hired.


First foreign student, from Iran, enrolls in pioneer freshman class.

September 26
Opening Day ceremonies for Grand Valley State College. 226 students (all freshmen) are enrolled.

First buildings in Great Lakes Group, Lake Michigan Hall and Lake Superior Hall, completed.

Racing shells for Grand Valley's first team sport, crew, are purchased by a community group.

November 22
First student newspaper, The Keystone, is published.


May 13
Student charter is adopted.

Enrollment of freshmen and sophomores 530.

Fortune Magazine features Grand Valley State College as one of five new campuses in U.S. with superior architecture and design.

Electronic study carrel system for access to audio-video resources is developed in conjunction with American Seating. Project receives wide attention for innovative academic information retrieval and distribution.

Seidman House, named for the Thomas Erler Seidman Foundation, opens as student center, bookstore, recreation room and offices for student groups. Lake Huron Hall completes first academic complex, the Great Lakes Group.


Contest held to decide nickname and mascot for sports teams and other activities. "Lakers" selected by students from 80 student and public submissions. New name replaces unofficial nickname, Bruisers, used for two years and derived from school colors of black, blue and white.

Enrollment of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors 1,144. Programs in education and business added to Liberal Arts curriculum.

Off-campus student housing opens at privately owned Grand Valley Apartments and Grand River Apartments. (Grand Valley Apartments acquired by the University in 2000.)

Little Mac pedestrian bridge constructed, spanning 230-ft. wide, 70-ft. deep ravine and connecting north and south campus.


May 13
Loutit Hall of Science, featuring a 28-ft. pedestal greenhouse, dedicated.

Accredited by Michigan Commission on College Accreditation.

First Winter Carnival

Five students complete graduation requirements at end of summer term; will receive diplomas with first class in June 1967.

Enrollment for first semester of full four-year program 1,341.

First dormitory, named for founding Board of Control member James O. Copeland, opens, along with Campus View Apartments, first college-owned apartment complex.


Bachelor of Science degree added to curriculum.

June 18
First graduation. Class of 138 seniors includes 86 members of Pioneer Class. Constitution of new Alumni Association accepted by Board of Control.

Research vessel Angus, named to honor donor D.J. Angus in 1966, is outfitted for oceanographic study as part of Summer Program in Ecology.

Enrollment 1,729.

Second on-campus dormitory, named for founding Board member Kenneth Robinson, dedicated. First building in Islands Complex, Mackinac Hall, completed in November. Commons dining facility completed.


Center section of new Fieldhouse dome collapses during construction.

Grand Valley is accredited by North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (NCA).

Graduation ceremonies at Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids for more than 180 students.

Enrollment 2,220. A new academic unit, the School of General Studies, is opened, offering innovative inter-disciplinary program. First academic unit at Grand Valley re-named College of Arts and Sciences.

Second building in Islands Complex, Manitou Hall, completed. Architects of Manitou and Mackinac win Award of Honor in 1969 from Michigan Society of Architects.

October 9
Student-operated radio station begins broadcasting.

Injunction brought by Ottawa County Circuit Court stopping publication of student newspaper, the Lanthorn, and charging its editor with obscenity. In August 1969, Michigan Attorney General ruled that county did not have legal authority to close newspaper.


Arend D. Lubbers succeeds James H. Zumberge as President of Grand Valley State College.

New James H. Zumberge library opens.

June 15
Commencement ceremonies held in new Fieldhouse.

Enrollment 2,718.

Grand Valley sends first students abroad, to the University of Lancaster in England, and establishes program in Merida, Mexico. Office of International Studies established in 1970.

School of General Studies renamed Thomas Jefferson College of General Studies.

October 12
Inauguration for President Lubbers and dedication ceremonies for Zumberge Library and new Fieldhouse. President Lubbers presented bronze presidential medallion.

October 15 & November 14
Moratorium Days held to assess war in Vietnam.

Students celebrate GVSCs accreditation, March 25, 1968.
Members of the first Board of Control: l to r back row-- Edward J. Frey, James Copeland, Dale Stafford, William Kirkpatrick, Icie Macy Hoobler, Kenneth Robinson. l to r front row--Arnold Ott, Grace Kistler, and L. William Seidman, Chair. The nine member board was later reduced to eight, 1960.
Architects from the firm of Meathe, Kessler & Associates study plans for Grand Valley State College's Allendale campus, ca. 1960.
Construction of Little Mac Bridge, ca. 1963.

Photos are courtesy of the Grand Valley University Archives and Special Collections

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Page last modified September 29, 2020