Alumni Association bestows highest honors on Dr. Nancy Steele, '85, '94 and Dr. James Sanford
It was an evening of reunion, socializing and celebration as the GVSU Alumni Association's spring 2011 Distinguished Alumna and Outstanding Educator were recognized on April 29 for their significant accomplishments to Grand Valley and their communities. Board President Jeffery Weatherall, '78 and 2007 Distinguished Alumnus Blaine Koops, '76 presented the accolades to alumna Dr. Nancy Steele, '85, '94 and Dr. James Sanford, professor of management at GVSU.
Past Distinguished Alumni were also recognized at a private reception and mingled before the formal dinner and cocktail reception (see story below). The following day during the morning commencement ceremony, both award recipients were recognized in a special video, and were presented with a proclamation in front of the new graduates and their families. Photos
Past Distinguished Alumni gather in record numbers
Nearly 20 Distinguished Alumni recipients from previous years traveled from all over the country, some as far as California, to help celebrate the accomplishments of this year's Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Educator awardees. Laker pride was in full bloom on April 29 at this first-ever official gathering of past Distinguished Alumni, held prior to the spring awards dinner.
Speaking to her fellow Distinguished Alumni, Deirdre Toeller-Novak, '76 said: “Your hard work and successes are truly your own. But I think all of us know that we got a great start at Grand Valley, that it’s a special place, and we hope students continue to benefit like we did.”
She explained that several Distinguished Alumni met this past summer to reflect on their role in Grand Valley’s past and future. “We are almost like a brain trust that grew out of GVSU. Our collective knowledge and skills make up an important asset and legacy for Grand Valley,” she said.
“At the same time, our alma mater itself has become more distinguished and received national recognition… Grand Valley has impact, and it’s a worthwhile place for us to stay attached to.”
President Haas, who also spoke to the guests, added to Toeller-Novak’s sentiments. “Alumni will play a role in Grand Valley’s future like never before. You’ve never been more ready and able to have an impact, and it’s the same with GVSU – we’ve never been readier to shape our world. We’ll need your help as role models, mentors, leaders and supporters.”
The Distinguished Alumni in attendance are listed below. Photos
For more information on becoming involved with GVSU, contact Abbey Sloan, assistant director of alumni relations, by email or phone at 616-331-3591.
Distinguished Alumni in Attendance
Dixie Anderson, '72 & '78 | Grand Rapids, MI
Executive Director, World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. Advocate for international understanding.
Larry Austin, '74 | Grand Rapids, MI
President, Aqua-Tech Consultants, Inc. Geological and hydrogeological consulting for environmental, water resources, and hazardous waste management.
Max R. Bush, '72 | Hamilton, MI
National award-winning playwright who has written more than sixteen major plays, many commissioned for children's theatre.
Patrick Duncan, '74 | Santa Monica, CA
Novelist, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director. Acclaimed for works including Mr. Holland’s Opus, Courage Under Fire, and Nick of Time.
Lillian Elsinga, '68 | Grand Forks, ND
Retired Dean of Students & Associate Vice President for Student Services, University of North Dakota. Served the university for 37 years.
Larry Fegel, '73 | Holland, MI
Coordinator of elementary science for Grand Rapids Public Schools. Leader in science, math, and outdoor education for K-12 and higher education.
Betty Burton Groce, '77 | Grand Rapids, MI
Former CEO of family-owned Wonderland Business Forms. Retired; volunteer for multiple organizations including public schools, music, juvenile justice.
Virgil Gulker, '69 | Holland, MI
Servant Leader-in-Residence, Hope College. Social entrepreneur engaging church volunteers with at-risk families. Founder of LOVE INC., Love For Children, and KIDS HOPE USA.
Bill Hardiman, '77 | Kentwood, MI
Past State Senator, Michigan Legislature and former Mayor of City of Kentwood, Michigan.
Faith Heikkila, '81 | Kalamazoo, MI
Chief information security officer, Greenleaf Companies. Recognized expert, speaker and author on information security.
David Hufford, '67 | University Place, WA
Managed the Public Works Operations Division for the City of Tacoma, Washington for more than 30 years. Retired.
Blaine Koops, '76 | Hamilton, MI
Sheriff of Allegan County, Michigan since 2001; serving second term. Over 33 years of law enforcement and public service.
Hubert Massey, '83 | Detroit, MI
Renowned fresco and mural artist, with commissions in Detroit, Ann Arbor, Flint and Grand Rapids.
Larry Pawl, '71 | Grand Rapids, MI
Doctor of oncology, Medical Specialty Associates PC in Grand Rapids. Represented this evening by his spouse Brenda Pawl, '95.
Leona Spencer, '75 | Grand Rapids, MI
Passionate worker for community and the disadvantaged. Former director of Kent County Social Services Youth Companion Program. Recipient, Giant Among Giants Award.
Penny Swanson, '72 & '82 | Crystal, MI
Leader in educational administration; instructor, superintendent, and consultant. In New York, supervised schools serving 25,000 students and opened 15 private schools across the U.S.
Maria Marino Tatzmann, '80 | Minneapolis, MN
Principal of private practice mental health services for children and families. Social worker and past director of Hispanic Center of West Michigan.
Deirdre Toeller-Novak, '76 | Holland, MI
Nonprofit leader and professional with service at Hospice of Michigan, Children's Assessment Center, and Humane Society of Kent County.
Vondie Woodbury, '71 | North Muskegon, MI
Noted career in public service. Director of Muskegon Community Health Project for 15 years; former state director and chief of staff for US Senator Donald Riegle.
Click here for a list of all Distinguished Alumni and brief information about them.