Lubbers and Niemeyer share memories of Grand Valley

Retired Provost Glenn Niemeyer, left, and President Emeritus Arend D. Lubbers
Retired Provost Glenn Niemeyer, left, and President Emeritus Arend D. Lubbers
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President Emeritus Arend D. Lubbers and retired Provost Glenn Niemeyer reminisced about Grand Valley’s early history during a lecture series for the 50th anniversary celebration.

About 70 people attended the “50th at Noon” lecture, held October 13, at the Cook-DeWitt Center.

Lubbers said there were three important characteristics of the founding of Grand Valley that made it unique. “Grand Rapids was the most populous area in Michigan without indigenous, state-supported education,” Lubbers said. “We were able to offer unique programs and a more efficient and less-costly way to run an institution. These were advantages not fully understood at the outset.”

Lubbers likened Grand Valley to an unexpected child born to 45-year-old parents after the other kids reached adulthood. “Just as the infant does not comprehend what will happen in life, so the new college did not know how profoundly these conditions would affect its future.”

Lubbers said he received resistance for some of his actions over the years like pushing for professional programs and making steep cuts during the recession of the late 70s and early 80s. “Some faculty wanted a vote of no confidence in the president, but the trustees and faculty chair supported me,” Lubbers said.

Niemeyer said the early curriculum was founded on the liberal arts. “There were nine courses offered in the first year and the institution was on a term or quarter schedule,” Niemeyer explained. “Students were expected to take three, five-credit courses each term. Looking back, it was a fairly rigorous program of study for students.”

Niemeyer said they faced several challenges in the early years like not meeting enrollment expectations because of a limited curriculum and dispelling rumors that Grand Valley might be turned into a prison.

“Things really started to change and the university started to flourish after the reorganization in 1982,” he said. “The reorganization signaled a new era for Grand Valley."

To hear their entire remarks visit www.gvsu.edu/anniversary/50th-at-noon-lectures-41.htm.

The next "50th at Noon" lecture is scheduled for Wednesday, November 10, in the Cook-DeWitt Center with Joan Boand, associate professor emerita of physical education, and James Scott, associate professor of movement science. They will discuss the early history of physical education and intercollegiate athletics at Grand Valley.