Founders Day to celebrate culmination of high hopes

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Grand Valley State University is launching a new annual tradition that celebrates its founding and the people who made it possible.

In 1963, Grand Valley State College enrolled its first 226 students, and has since become one of the nation’s most successful regional universities. The  efforts of L. William “Bill” Seidman, recognized as the founder of Grand Valley, and nearly 300 community members, will be celebrated during Founders Day.

The inaugural event is set for Thursday, October 10, from noon-1 p.m. near the Cook Carillon Tower on the Allendale Campus. Comments from President Thomas J. Haas, Tom Seidman, Bill’s son, and others will be followed by the unveiling of an iconic outdoor statue of Bill Seidman. Follow and share live updates of the event on social media with #GVFoundersDay.

Seidman’s idea to build a college in the Grand Rapids area received legislative support – if he could raise $1 million and obtain a university charter. The citizens’ committees he established traveled the region and played their theme song, “High Hopes” sung by Frank Sinatra, while they asked for support. Community organizations, area banks, businesses and labor unions contributed, as did individuals who gave a “buck a brick” to help transform Seidman’s idea into reality. In 1960 Grand Valley became Michigan’s 10th state-supported college. The Founders Day tradition will celebrate how vision and passion culminated in a tremendous philanthropic outpouring and the founding of Grand Valley.

The larger than life-sized bronze statue of Seidman was created by artist J. Brett Grill, a Grand Rapids native who now teaches and creates in Columbia, Missouri. He received a bachelor’s degree, with emphasis in figurative sculpture, from the University of Michigan in 2001, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from the New York Academy of Art in 2003, both with honors. His commissioned works can be found throughout the U.S. and include a sculpture of Gerald R. Ford for the Presidential Museum and Jay Van Andel for the City of Grand Rapids.

Grill said his approach to every project is rooted in research gathered from both private and public sources, with the aim to crystallize all the important aspects of a person’s life into one moment. For the Allendale Campus sculpture, Grill created a likeness of Seidman that represents the true nature of a man on the move, at the peak of his many achievements.



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