Culture of Giving
|To understand the deeply rooted culture of giving at Grand Valley, it’s helpful to understand how the university was started…by a 37 year old man and a community with high hopes.|
L. William Seidman, widely recognized as “the father of Grand Valley State University,” was interviewed for GVSU’s 50th Anniversary Video History Project shortly before his death in May of 2009. The Grand Rapids businessman, who became an economic advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, chair of the FDIC and head of the Resolution Trust Corp., among other national positions, recounted his attempts in the late 1950s to gain community support for a somewhat radical idea. He proposed to establish an independent, state-supported, four-year institution of higher education in West Michigan.
|“We started having meetings with all kinds of organizations,” he remembered, “the labor unions, the various luncheon clubs, anybody that would listen to us … I would come in and I would take out what we used to call a recording machine, and I would play ‘High Hopes.’ You know, the song ‘High Hopes,’” he continued, describing Frank Sinatra’s Top 40 hit of the day, “the ant moving a rubber tree plant? Then we would tell them about this (college proposal) and ask them for their support. We did that for about a year. I must have gone to hundreds of meetings.”|
The Million Dollar Challenge
When House Bill 477 proposing the new college was finally passed, it contained several significant amendments. Most important to the Grand Rapids cause was the requirement that before the college could receive a charter, the Board of Control must raise one million dollars by means other than public taxation, and secure a suitable site. Governor G. Mennen Williams signed Public Act 120 of the 70th Legislature of the State of Michigan, Regular Session 1960, into law on April 26.
A million dollars. Depending on the method used for comparison, that would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-$15 million today. No capital fundraising effort that large had been undertaken in West Michigan before then.
But the community was ready to go. In September 1960 the Grand Rapids Press reported that the Grand Rapids Foundation pledged $50,000 to get the ball rolling. In the end, the million dollars was raised and the rest is history.
To read the complete story of Grand Valley’s origin and the community that made it happen please visit our 50th anniversary website.