Laker Leadership Programs

Venderbush Leadership Lecture

Come celebrate leadership! The Venderbush Leadership Lecture is designed to recognize extraordinary leadership. Since 1999, Grand Valley has honored the memory of Kenneth R. Venderbush through an ongoing series of leadership lectures. In addition to having the opportunity to listen to inspiring tales of leadership, this event offers the opportunity to acknowledge outstanding student leaders who contribute regularly to our community by bestowing the Immediate Impact Award to one exceptional student leader. New members of the National Leadership Honor Society Omicron Delta Kappa are also recognized during the event.

2014-2015 Academic Year

Winter 2015


















Date: Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Time: 2:00-4:00PM 
Location: KC 2204 (Pere Marquette Room)
Keynote speaker: 
Mary Buikema, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity (Kent County)

Mary has held the position of Executive Director at Habitat for Humanity of Kent County since 2010.  For fifteen years prior to her work at Habitat, she was a Builder, Designer and Project Manager for BDR Custom Homes Incorporated in Grand Rapids.  Other professional experience includes five years as Senior Associate for Advancement at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

Milestones for Habitat for Humanity of Kent Country under the leadership of Mary Buikema:

  • Chamber of Commerce's Non-Profit of the Year EPIC Award: 2013
  • Center for Community Leadership Systems Thinking Award: 2013
  • Michigan Habitat Affiliate of the Year: 2013
  • $5 million Building Blocks Campaign to revitalize five Westside neighborhoods: 2014                                        

Originally from the Southwest side of Chicago, Mary graduated from Chicago Christian High School and then moved to Grand Rapids to attend Calvin College where she received her Bachelor of Fine Art degree with an emphasis in painting and sculpture.

Mary has been involved in the Grand Rapids community since returning to West Michigan as a Community Trustee for the Center for Community Leadership, Board Member of Habitat for Humanity of Michigan and The Habitat for Humanity Mortgage Fund, as a Collaborative Partner in the Food Club of Greater Grand Rapids, as a Lecturer and Mentor at The Hauenstein Center, and as an active member of many community-based organizations.

Mary lives in a micro apartment on the Westside of Grand Rapids, and enjoys a simple life in partnership with Tom Beltman and his children, Jon and Nika.  Together, they experience pure joy while exploring the urban core of Grand Rapids and the small town of Saline, Michigan.  


Kenneth R. Venderbush (1930-1975)

Dr. Kenneth R. Venderbush came to Grand Valley in 1969. During his tenure he served as Associate Professor and Acting Dean of William James College, and from 1969 until 1973 he was Vice President for Student Affairs. He received an undergraduate degree in speech from Kalamazoo College, an M.A. from Wayne State University, and a Ph.D from Ohio State University in 1968. Dr. Venderbush's commitment to student affairs was highlighted by his understanding of student concerns. During his time as Vice President of Student Affairs, he worked to assure student input in the decision-making process. He was a strong advocate of student leadership participation as a learning tool.

The Kenneth R. Venderbush Leadership Award

Please note that the Kenneth R. Venderbush Leadership Award is not awarded at the Venderbush Leadership Reception. The Award is coordinated through the Dean of Students Office.

Since 1983, the university has bestowed its highest Student Leadership Award, the Kenneth R. Venderbush Leadership Award to a graduating senior student. In the Fall of 1999, the university continued to honor his memory through an on-going series of community leadership lectures made possible by a gift from Kenneth R. Venderbush's family.

This prestigious award is presented to a senior who has made a significant leadership contribution to student life at Grand Valley and demonstrates a strong commitment to academics. Award nominations and selection is coordinated through the Dean of Students Office. Click here for more information on nominating a student for the Venderbush Student Leadership Award.


Page last modified February 11, 2015